Embracing challenges of difficult times

Published 8:59 am Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Hampden-Sydney College’s (H-SC) men’s basketball team was locked in a tight contest Saturday against visiting Washington and Lee University (W&L), the team tied for second in the conference, but H-SC ended up falling 70-68, their eighth loss in a row.

“We’ve been through a tough stretch, and we’re not experiencing the success we would like, but we are working hard to turn things around, and our team is embracing the challenge, and we’re just trying to figure things out,” Tigers Head Coach Dee Vick said.

He noted that he was pleased with his team’s effort and competitiveness Saturday. The Tigers have a 1-7 record in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC), and the Generals have a 7-1 record, but Vick pointed out to his team that its narrow margin of defeat against the Generals shows it is not far off from being successful in the ODAC.

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“Tweak a few things here, get a call there, make an extra shot or an extra rebound or the ball bounces our way and we’re on the winning side of things,” Vick said. “So, we’re battling away and looking for hopefully a defining moment in this season where we can turn things around and finish strong.”

Entering Wednesday night’s contest at Virginia Wesleyan University, the Tigers held an overall record of 4-13.

Vick said there has not been a common theme to Hampden-Sydney’s losses.

“One game, like at Randolph-Macon (College), we turned the ball over too much. At Emory & Henry (College), we didn’t rebound the ball as well as we needed to. So, it’s been different things that have contributed to our lack of success, but I think it’s all things that we can correct. Now, we’ve had some games where execution wasn’t where it needed to be, and those are things that we can control, and we’re certainly working on those things hard every day.”

Despite the Tigers’ losing streak, their have been individual players that have shined.

“Malik Crute is really having a good run here of late,” Vick said. “He’s really playing well and making good decisions, taking good shots. He’s awfully difficult to guard one-on-one, so he’s getting by people, getting to the rim more, and his productivity has become more consistent, which is big for us.”

On Saturday, the junior led H-SC in scoring — something he often does — contributing 19 points. Among other recent highlights, he scored 20 against first-place Emory & Henry on Jan. 13 and led all scorers with 29 Jan. 10 at Lynchburg College.

“His confidence is really coming on, and he’s really understanding how to play through our offense, and he’s doing a nice job leading his teammates as well,” Vick said.

Though Crute is listed on H-SC’s online roster as a point guard, his role is not quite as simple as that.

“He’s playing off the ball, but he handles the ball a lot in our offense,” Vick said. “He does play some point for us throughout the game, but he’s kind of a combo scoring guard is what I like to call him, and he definitely handles the ball a lot for us.”

The coach also highlighted the play of senior center Hunter Kuehn.

“He’s had some big games for us, and we certainly need to count on his productivity,” Vick said. “When he plays well and can score 14 to 16 points and give us six or eight rebounds, it makes a huge difference for us, and he had 17 (points) and nine (rebounds) against W&L, which was outstanding. And that’s going against the league’s best player or the league’s leading scorer in Clayton Murtha. So it was really a great outing for Hunter, and hopefully, he’ll finish strong that way.”

Tipoff for the Tigers’ road game against Virginia Wesleyan on Wednesday is set for 7 p.m.