Wildcats look to bounce back from losing streak

Joe Stuart, For the Review

Even if the Wildcats basketball team loses every game for the rest of the season, they can at least say that they did just as well as last year.

At seven games into the season, the men’s basketball team has matched last season’s win total of 4.

At 4-3, they are having the best start to the season since the 2010-11 season. The wins all came quick too, with four straight wins to open the season.

The year started out with a bang on November 13 during the Bon Appetite Tipoff Classic when Linfield upset Johnson & Wales University, a team that contended for a national title last season, 80-74.

It continued in day two of the classic against the University of Valley Forge when Linfield won easily 71-58.

“Linfield won easily.” Those words would have brought shock to anyone who followed the program last season, with the ’Cats largest win only a five-point difference against Willamette University.

But not this year. This season, it looks like a whole new team. It practically is a whole new team, with six transfers and nine freshmen on the roster.

It works too, with all these new players. Linfield traveled to California over Thanksgiving break to take on Cal Tech and La Verne College, both of which they beat by double-digits.

They even were able to keep up with Division-I University of Idaho in an exhibition match. They ended up losing 85-59, but Idaho didn’t really pull away till late in the second half.

But after the blowout of La Verne, things started to fall apart a little bit.
While visiting Redlands College, Linfield looked like they had the match in hand, leading at the end of the first half and through much of the second half.

But a series of missed shots, fouls, and untimely turnovers led to a let-game collapse and an eventual 89-79 loss.

Then the league play started, with back-to-back losses to Whitman College and Whitworth University, both by large deficits.

One must concede, you couldn’t pick worse opponents to start your league play against. Whitworth and Whitman finished ranked one and two in the Northwest Conference last season, with 25-4 and 20-6 records, respectively.

Whitworth also made the Division-III tournament, just barely getting edged out in the second round.

So Linfield’s record now stands at 4-3, 0-2 in conference play.
And even though it may look like those four straight wins may have just been a series of flukes, I would have to disagree.

Through seven games, Linfield has two scorers averaging double-digits, Kyle Maloof, ’17, and Vince Romeo, ’19.

Last season, Linfield had no scorers averaging double-digits, the highest points-per-game average being 9.3, by Ryan Potter.

Potter also had the team high for most points in a single game last year, with 22. It didn’t come until the second to last game of the season.

Maloof tied that output in his fourth game in a Linfield jersey.

It’s not just the scoring that has taken an upswing. With a 14.1 assist per game average, three more than last season, the involvement of the whole team has improved, which has shown with 12 different players getting regular minutes so far.

The tenacity has improved as well. Rebounds per game are up, turnovers are down.

And just watching this team, they have more energy, more of a drive.

The biggest thing that is going to separate this team is going to be their attitude. If they don’t think they can win, they won’t win.

That’s why these early wins are so important, now they know they can win. Now they can believe in themselves when no one else will, and that’s what will lead to the winning season this program has missed for so long.