Before the season began, the question surrounding the Colgate basketball program was whether or not they’d be able to make the jump from Patriot League doormat to conference competitor in just one season. Now a day before the team opens its conference slate on the road against Lehigh, that question still remains.
“I think that we’re close,” said Colgate head coach Matt Langel.
Close may even be a big understatement for what Colgate has been for the past two years. Of Colgate’s 18 losses last season, all but four were by single digits. Of the 3-9 Raiders losses this season, all but defeats at the hands of Syracuse and No. 21 Ohio State have been by seven points or less.
Langel knows his team has the skills to be competitive, but in his eyes, getting over the hump of these tough losses is about combining everyone’s talents and forming a cohesive unit.
“I think it’s really banding together, and everybody just doing a little bit more on a daily basis over the course of a practice, a week, a game,” said Langel. “Everybody can do a little bit more on the offensive end, on the defensive end, and you’re right where you need to be. It sounds like a cliché but that’s really the only way to win these close games.”
This season, Langel has slightly adjusted his coaching style for how many experienced players are on his team, among them fifth-year seniors Pat Moore and Ethan Jacobs, seniors Damon Sherman-Newsome, Luke Roh, Matt McMullen, and red-shirt junior Austin Tillotson.
“You’re sensitive to the fact that the guys have lost a lot of heartbreaking games but it’s college basketball,” said Langel. “To me they’ve got the best lives going. They get to go to school, many of them on scholarship at a great academic institution, they get to lace up their sneakers and play basketball everyday, and if they can’t get excited about that then they’ve got to revisit what they’re doing.”
According to Langel, the veterans will be the key to Colgate’s season from here on out.
Sherman-Newsone, a big 6-foot-5-inch guard, can do a little bit of everything and score from anywhere on the floor, and leads the team in scoring at 14.7 points per game and is shooting 47.8 percent from the floor and 37.1 percent from behind the arc. Tillotson, a dynamic 6’1” point guard is the engine that makes the Raiders go, averaging 4.4 assists and 12.7 points per game while shooting an astounding 48.2 percent from the floor.
Jacobs, a 6-foot-11 center, provides an inside presence with 9.8 points and 5.2 rebounds, while Roh, a junkyard dog guard does a bit of everything at 6’5” averaging 7.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists.
“I think as you go into league play, you’re hoping that your veteran group has learned some lessons, and everyone can stick together, and find a way to win some of these close games in the fashion that American did last year,” said Langel.