By Thomas Asbaty & Joseph Iemma
On Wednesday, Feb. 15, the men’s basketball team beat the University of the District of Columbia, 88-67, without their leading scorer, senior forward Greg Dotson, who was out with an injury. With the win, the Green and Gold extended their winning streak to four games.
Head Coach Eric Smiles was pleased with his team’s performance. “We played great,” Smiles said. “We came out, executed on both sides of the floor, we moved the ball very well on offense. We had a lot of guys score double digits and get involved.”
Senior guard Jemal Mosley had 19 points in the first half and finished the game with 22. Other senior guard Jared Hall had 16 points on the night, going 8 for 14 from the field, along with three rebounds and three assists. Aary Bibens, a red-shirt junior guard, had 13 points, five rebounds and two assists.
The Pioneers shot 47.9 percent from the field on the night, 40.9 percent from behind the arc and 84.6 percent from the free throw line.
In the last three minutes of the first half, the Pioneers went on an 11-2 run to go into halftime with a commanding 49-35 lead. Mosley sank four three pointer in the first half.Junior guard Kyle McLeggan sank one.
The Green and Gold continued their scoring from the first half to the second, coming out of the gate scoring 11 points in the first 5 minutes, making the margin 20 points with a 60-40 lead with 14 minutes left in the game.
Freshman forward Kyle Doucette almost finished with a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds and two blocks. Mcleggan contributed with eight points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Three days later, on Saturday, Feb. 18, LIU Post hosted Queens College, a team that beat them on Jan. 14, 100-76, and a team that hold the 6th spot in the playoffs, just above the Pioneers.
Before the Queens College game, Smiles said, “We have to come out and play hard, we didn’t give a good effort over there so we have to come out and make shots and move the ball. “They (Queens) shoot the most threes at the best percentage, so we have to do a good job taking away their shot.”
After their win against UDC, Post was just half a game back in the standings from making that 6th playoff spot.
It was Senior Day at the Pratt Center on Feb 18. Looking to give their home fans a fitting send-off, the Pioneers started off hot. Just four minutes after tip-off , the up-tempo Pioneer offense, spearheaded by playmaking senior point guard Jared Hall, had tallied 12 points in just seven possessions.
With an early eight-point lead and an invigorated home crowd behind them, all signs pointed to the Pioneers taking and holding a commanding first half lead over the under-sized Queens College Knights. However, ten costly turnovers by the Pioneers in the first half quickly gave momentum to the sharp shooting Queens Knights, and they capitalized.
The Knights outscored the Pioneer’s by 23 points. With two minutes left to play in the first half, the Knights’ lead had swelled to a 15 point margin, putting the Pioneers in a precarious position as they headed to the locker room down 43-31.
“It was a tough first half, we made some miscalculations,” Smiles said of the team’s first half performance. Queens College had shot over 54% from behind the three point arch in the first half, and out rebounded the Pioneers 18-11.
In an attempt to turn the tide of this game, Smiles looked to his bench and inserted freshman forward Hall Elisais. Elisais made his presence known in the first half, blocking one shot and scoring a two point basket off a missed layup within his first minute of action. “He’s a beast,” Smiles said, “He’s just a freshman; he’s going to be really good for us next year.” Elisais went on to sink all eight of his free throw attempts.
Just like that, the Knights’ lead had shrunken to three, with just over six minutes to go. The Pioneers made one last push to take their first lead since the first half, but the Knights scored 17 points in the final minutes of the game, beating the Pioneers on their home court, 84-72.
For seniors Jared Hall, Greg Dotson, who returned for the first time since being injured, and Jemal Mosely, the three seniors on the team, Saturday’s game was their last on their home court. “It’s disappointing we couldn’t get a win for our guys [seniors],” Smiles said.
With an overall record of 9-17, this will be the first losing season under Coach Smiles in his four years as head coach of The Pioneers. But, Smiles remains optimistic about next season. “We were a young team this year, but next year we are going to be a really good team.”