After finishing with a record of 21 wins and seven losses last season, some thought this would be a rebuilding year of sorts for the John Carroll University men’s basketball team.
The program lost Brian Dandrea, Rudy Kirbus, Tyler Kirsch and Chris Zajac to graduation and senior Tommy Lavelle left the team to pursue other interests.
Before the season even started, junior Patrick Sweeney was lost for the year due to injury.
After seven games, senior Kyle Hubbard’s season came to an end when he suffered a season-ending injury.
In the midst of conference play, the Blue Streaks suffered a huge emotional setback when junior Matt Crozier, who was taking a medical redshirt this season, tragically lost his life on Jan. 6.
Despite all the setbacks, the team has found a way to once again be near the top in the always-tough Ohio Athletic Conference.
JCU entered last night’s road contest with the University of Mount Union with a record of 12 wins and five losses, including a 7-3 mark in conference play.
Currently, JCU is tied with the Capital University Crusaders for second place in the OAC behind the Marietta College Pioneers. However, a pair of head-to-head wins over Capital would give JCU a tiebreaker advantage should it come into play for postseason tournament seeding in March.
Their most recent win was over those Crusaders, this time at the Tony DeCarlo Varsity Center.
The Blue Streaks turned away Capital by a score of 82-77 on Saturday, Jan. 22 to give JCU five wins in their last six games, with the lone loss to first place Marietta on the road by a score of 101-90.
JCU is roughly two-thirds of the way through their regular season schedule as they have seven games left on the schedule before postseason play.
One reason for their success so far is the system that they play. Despite losing a lot of key contributors from last season, the team still leads the conference in points per game, averaging just under 86 points per game.
With their fast-paced platoon system, JCU likes to speed opponents up and wear them down.
Lots of offense makes it exciting for fans to watch, but the team hangs their hat on their defense.
“This season our success is due to consistency. We preach defense and we practice it every day,” said Maurice Haynes, the lone senior on the team. “We also have the expectation to win. We expect to win, and we expect to shut any team down defensively.”
The Blue Streaks also look to head into postseason play with momentum on their side, as four of their last six games are home at the DeCarlo Varsity Center.
“In the postseason, we have to be in better shape and play better defense than these other teams. Basketball is a long season and we definitely need to outlast our opponents,” said Haynes, who leads the Blue Streaks in scoring with just under 15 points per game. “The postseason is down the road, so I think we need to take it one game at a time.”
Perhaps the biggest game left on the Blue Streaks regular season schedule is their season finale on Feb. 19 as they get a second chance at Marietta, this time inside the DeCarlo Center.