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Inconsistency plagued Rustlers first half

Inconsistency plagued Rustlers first half

Posted in By Colin

By Chris Roberts
The Lakeland Rustlers men’s basketball team has had trouble finishing games so far this year, and if they plan on making the playoffs they’ll have to at least finish the season strong.
In their last game before the break, rather true to form, the Rustlers dropped a 94-91 overtime decision to Red Deer College, who are ranked second in the country.
After coming from behind, outscoring Red Deer 30-20 in the final quarter and even taking the lead, the Rustlers once again suffered a disappointing loss.
“Maybe it’s good that we have a break now, because I think a loss like that’s going to take awhile to get over,” said head coach Tom Groat on Tuesday.
Though the loss dropped their record to 3-6 at the halfway mark of the season, the Rustlers are a team that could very easily be above .500 right now. They’ve lost by double digits just once this season, and four of their losses have been by five points or less, and for the most part, have come in games they’ve even taken a late lead in.
“The problem is we have to find a way to finish the game, we seem to get ourselves in a position to win and then we don’t get the job done, it’s been heart-wrenching I guess in that sense,” Groat said.
Groat pointed to last weekend’s game against Red Deer as a reason for his team’s inability to win in close games down the stretch, noting that four of his five guys on the floor in overtime were first-year players.
He’s hopeful that the team’s recent game against Red Deer was, at the very least, another learning experience for the young team.
“That’s that lack of experience and how to do the right things at the right time, and you solve that one with time, the more chances you get in those situations the better you handle them.”
That’s not to say he hasn’t been feverishly trying to figure out a remedy himself. The team has exhausted a lot of their energy during practice taking part in two minute drills, simulating end-of-game experiences.
Groat will set the clock for two minutes and put a tied score on the scoreboard while his team looks to execute on the floor.
“It becomes a chess game at that point, when to shoot, when to foul, when to run an offence, when to hold the ball, we’re going to have to gain some experience with that,” Groat explained of the final two minutes.
And while the fourth quarter collapses, or losses in close games, continue to happen, Groat said there has been improvement.
“It’s sometimes difficult for a coach to say ‘oh, I’m seeing great improvement,’ because it’s sort of like watching water boil, it just sort happens slowly and then at some point it starts to boil,” he began. “I’ve had people that have come in to watch our team or watch our practice and they comment saying (the) guys are looking better, so I think there is growth.”
The first half did provide some positives for the Rustlers, however, as the team has been the most efficient offensive team in the North Division and have gotten key contributions from first-year players, particularly guys like Shane Osayande, who has been getting looks from CIS and Emmanuel Jones, who is “Still a first-year player, and he’s running the show from the point guard position,” said Groat.
He added that the team will likely need to go 8-2 in the second half to give themselves a good position in the playoffs, but is confident his team should at least make the post-season.
The Rustlers will play some exhibition games over the break before returning to ACAC action with a home-and-home against NAIT (5-5) on Jan. 11 and 12.
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