A season is full of ups and downs, no matter what level or sport one plays. As for the Wilkes men’s basketball team, they have experienced many ups and some downs throughout their season.
The Colonels currently sit at 12-7 overall and 4-4 in the MAC Freedom. They started conference play at 2-0, but have suffered losses in three of their last four games – to King’s, Delaware Valley and Eastern.
“In the Delaware Valley game, their team presented many interesting challenges for us,” said head coach Izzi Metz. “They had five guys who can all pass, dribble and shoot, as well as drive to the basket. They were able to space us out, and a lot of teams in the conference have been able to do that.”
Wilkes fell 99-90 in a high-scoring affair with Delaware Valley on Wednesday night and against Eastern 79-69.
The Delaware Valley game was back-and-forth early, but the Aggies were able to build a comfortable lead going into halftime. They continued building their lead to start the second half, but the Colonels surged with 10 minutes left in the game.
Rob Pecorelli and Mark Mullins started finding points in the paint and Wilkes cut the deficit down to single-digits. The Colonels got it down to as low as four points with under two minutes left in the game, but unfortunately, their comeback fell short.
“It was one of those games where we were playing a good offense and once we got behind, we felt like we were chasing,” Metz said. “This game was tough; they had answers for our runs and put pressure on our guys to keep scoring.”
Things have been good for the Colonels over the first half of conference play, as they carry a .500 record. They have scored 90 plus points in four of their MAC Freedom games and are 3-1 in said games. The offense has improved for Wilkes this season and part of the improvement is the emergence of Tommy Bowen and Mark Mullins as scorers on offense.
Bowen has been having the best season of his career, and is currently averaging over 14 points per game. He also has been in double figures for points in 10 of the team’s last 12 games.
“I have been working through the offense and Coach has been getting me a lot of touches down low,” Bowen said. “I just let the game come to me and try not to force anything.”
Mullins has been close to the top of the conference in scoring this season and has emerged as one of the league’s most dangerous weapons with his size and ability to shoot. He is currently averaging just under 16 points per game and is shooting at 46 percent from three-point land.
The Colonels currently sit in fourth in the conference standings and find themselves in position to go back to the MAC Freedom tournament.
“I feel confident in our team. We work hard in practice and do what we need to do,” Bowen said. “We just have to make sure we do what we’re coached to do in games and improve our defense.”
Every team is going to face adversity at points in a season, and the Colonels have been struggling with it. Point guard Landon Henry hasn’t played in 2019 yet, after suffering a lower body injury, and the absence has left Wilkes with one experienced point guard in Connor Evans.
The issue has really come up when Evans is in foul-trouble or when Metz wants to give him a break. The Colonels have had success with others running the point, but they are at their best with Henry and Evans.
Wilkes has arguably been in every game they lost in conference play, with exception of the King’s game. DeSales handed them their first conference loss, and the game looked like it was being played between the conference’s top two teams, until Mullins and Evans got into foul-trouble and eventually fouled out.
The loss to Delaware Valley seemed like another game with calls that could’ve gone either way and that the Colonels were just off their game.
“Our conference is very good this year and any team from top to bottom can win,” Metz said. “If you don’t play well, you are going to lose. For us, we win when we play well. We have also had games where didn’t do everything we needed and it hurt us. We are where we deserve to be but we are getting better.”
Looking to right the ship, Wilkes headed to Eastern, a team they beat earlier this season. Unfortunately for the Colonels they didn’t have the same luck this time around. Despite a season-high 27 points for Marcus Robinson, the Colonels didn’t have an answer for the Eagles.
As a team, Wilkes shot just over 40 percent from the field and outside of Robinson, they didn’t generate much offense. Mullins and Bowen each scored 12 points, but the next highest scorer was Connor Evans.
Austin Duncan led Eastern with 16 points and three assists. William Blet added 14 points and ten rebounds before fouling out, while Michael Bowlers contributed 13 points, six rebounds, and three assists and Brennan Kastens had 10 points in 20 minutes off the bench with four rebounds and three assists.
The Colonels have a chance to get back into the swing of things with two home games, the first against Manhattanville and the second against DeSales. Wilkes will look to take care of business and get back into the win column against the Valiants on Wednesday, then get revenge against the Bulldogs on Saturday.