Gerald Bellot |
ST. THOMAS –The University of the Virgin Islands men’s basketball team traveled to San Juan, Puerto on Jan. 31 to play their second conference game against the University of Puerto Rico’s team, Sacred Heart.
The UVI Bucs look to better their record (1-0) on the road against a team that outmatched them by 31 points last year.
This year has already proved to be a better season for the Bucs, as last season they did not taste a win.
The Bucs, previously coached by Ryan Skinner, have made a plethora of changes going into this season. One of the changes was the acquisition of Coach Myron Brown.
Coach Brown spent two seasons at the University of St. Thomas in Miami, Florida. He joined the St. Thomas Bobcats after a season as the Head Coach for DeVry University where he built the DeVry University Men’s Basketball program from scratch without any athletic scholarships.
The Detroit native brings along four years of coaching experience in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics to the Liga Atlética Interuniversitaria de Puerto Rico for the Bucs this year. In addition to adding a new coach for the program there are also several new athletes that will not be eligible to play in conference this season but are practicing with the team. It seems as though the program may have a better future.
Tip off for the game was scheduled for 8:30 p.m.
At the tip, the Bucs gained the first possession. The Bucs brought the ball down the right side of the court and dumped it in to Dornel Weaver who finished at the basket.
The Bucs opened up the game in a full court man press, a different look from what we have seen in the past.
Sacred Heart responded on the other side of the floor. Chris Rodriguez, Heart’s biggest scoring threat this year, made a 15-footer in the middle of the paint.
Both teams seemed to be a little slow at the beginning of the game, each team with three turnovers. Neither seemed to be completely dominant. At the end of the first quarter the Bucs led by three, the score was 14-11.
After the first quarter the Bucs were led by Weaver with six and Rodriguez with seven.
The second quarter started at a much higher pace. The bench for the Bucs began to respond to the home crowd with chants. It nearly felt like playoff atmosphere.
Sacred Heart came out of the quarter making several adjustments, including a full court press that momentarily baffled the Bucs. They forced two quick turnovers. Joaquin Martinez scored his first bucket on the night.
After a quick timeout, it seemed Coach Brown said all the right things that his team needed to hear. They responded by scoring a quick 8 points, ending Sacred Hearts 5-0 run. Sacred Heart didn’t let that rattle them; Rodriguez fired two corner threes with 2:44 remaining to put them up 29-28.
The Bucs entered the half leading 32-31.
In previous seasons, the Bucs have come out rather sluggish in the second half which lead to their 0-10 season last year. Coach Brown has put a large emphasis on a few things this year. When asked about his team’s ability to play hard in the second half, he responded, “Games are won in the second half not the first. If we are going to win this game we have to come out ready for a fight.”
This philosophy must have been engraved in the Bucs because they came out swinging. Chris Lockhart and Salim Ross lead an early surge in the beginning of the half. Ross scored an easy four points transition.
Lockhart was just starting to warm up, he scored a quick 8 points from the mid-range. Lockhart found Weaver under the basket with a no look pass. Chase Tomas may have been the game changer in this contest; he scored two and-one baskets early in the quarter that turned the momentum away from Sacred Heart.
Freshman Jabari Alexander and Paul Watson also had great debuts. With 5:20 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Alexander drove along the baseline and dished the ball to Weaver for a basket. The next possession Watson scored an easy bucket on his defender.
There was 3:13 left on the clock in the 3rd quarter. Sacred Heart took the ball out on their sideline after a time out. Steven Quiroz lobbed the ball on the inbound to Alejandro Grant and nearly connected for a game changing alley-oop.
Both teams continued to score back and forth until the end of the quarter. Grant, got his first bucket with 1:00 remaining. Going into the 4th quarter the Bucs trailed 49-45.
Lockhart led a frenzy from the bucks in the beginning of the quarter, scoring 8 points to give the bucks the lead. Early in the quarter, Grant picked up his 4th foul and went to the bench leaving Sacred Heart at a size disadvantage; However his substitute William Schaening was eager for an opportunity. Schaening hit two big shots to bring Sacred Heart back within single digits.
With 6 minutes left in the 4th quarter, the bucks were up seven points. It seemed as if they had the game in their hands, but that was not the case. Turnovers continued to plague the Bucs and Sacred Heart began to regain life.
It was nearly a comedy of errors, fumbled passes stepping out of bound and shot clock violations. Nothing was going the Bucs way, yet somehow they remained in the game. In fact, they led by 2 until Schaning hit another big three to put Sacred Heart up 1 with :57 seconds remaining.
Lockhart brought the ball down the court and ran through their play looking for a shot. He had an open look in the middle of the floor and took the shot; he came up short. Watson got the rebound and attempted to score when he was fouled.
Watson went to the line to attempt his 3rd and 4th free throws of the game. His first free throw was short and he had one more attempt. His second free throw was also short; Ross followed the ball and attempted a put-back dunk and he also missed.
Sacred Heart now had possession of the ball with: 5.6 seconds remaining. The ball was in-bounded and Grant was fouled by Watson. Grant went to the line to shoot 2 and cashed in on both attempts.
The Bucs down 3 called their final timeout and advanced the ball to half court. Coach Brown drew up a play for Lockhart but it was defended perfectly. A quick adjustment was made, Watson found Lockhart in the corner for a 3.
Lockhart’s left foot was out of bounds and the ball was called dead before he got to attempt the shot. Sacred Heart took possession and won the game 71-68.
Sacred Heart was led by Rodriguez with 21 and UVI was lead by Lockhart with 26.