by Tom Utescher
Chestnut Hill College closed out the 2016 portion of men’s basketball schedule with a mark of 4-8 last Monday night following an 83-65 loss to visiting University of the Sciences (3-10).
Although the Griffins enter their holiday break with encouraging non-conference wins over East Stroudsburg University and Division I Coppin State on the record, CHC slipped to 1-4 within the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference with the defeat dealt them by the USciences Devils (2-4).
After being down 58-48 at the 10-minute mark in the second half, Chestnut Hill soon saw its deficit almost double thanks to a 14-5 run by the visitors. The two teams pretty much traded points for the final four minutes to set the final margin at 18.
“We’re not playing well as a team right now, and USciences is very well-coached and they play well as a team,” stated CHC skipper Jesse Balcer. “They capitalized on all the little stretches where we didn’t do things right, when we had a really hard time getting defensive stops.
“We were playing well as a unit early in the season,” he continued, “and I don’t know why that went away, but it went away. We have a great group of kids, and they’re fun to be around, but when it comes to basketball, they just don’t get it right now.”
CHC junior forward Chris Evans hit the first three field goals of the game for his team over the initial two minutes, and later he showed his touch from outside as he followed another lay-up with a three-pointer that gave the Griffins a 15-14 edge. A little later, with 11:39 remaining in the first half, Chestnut Hill enjoyed its last lead of the evening when a trey from the top of the key by sophomore Bryant Quill made it 18-17.
The visiting Devils then drove the first wedge between themselves and their hosts, using five different scorers to get away on an 11-0 run. CHC stopped the bleeding for the time being, but did not gain back much ground, still trailing 39-30 at the intermission.
With Evans continuing to contribute and with junior guards Demetrius Isaac (Penn Charter ’14) and Ed McWade each hitting several field goals, the Griffins kept USciences from making a clean break over the first 10 minutes of the second half, which ended with a 58-48 tally. Then, in a little over five minutes, the Devils raised their lead close to 20 points (72-53). During this 14-5 spurt for the visitors the home team picked up its five points on a follow by freshman Nasir Bell and another “three” by Evans.
Chestnut Hill had nipped one point off that deficit by the end of the game, but in between the visitors led by as many as two dozen (79-55 with a little under two minutes to go).
Double-digit scoring for the winners came from seniors Jon McGill (24 points) and Bryan Okolo (16 points), junior Will Gregorits (15 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists), and sophomore Beni Toure (12 points). The Devils outshot CHC from the floor by 17 percentage points, outrebounded them 25-15, and scored 10 more assisted baskets.
The Griffins’ Evans shot three-for-six from the three-point line as part of a game-high 21-point performance, while Bell, a guard, led the team on the boards with six rebounds while scoring nine points. CHC received 11 points from Quill, eight from McWade, and seven apiece from Isaac and J.J. Butler.
Speaking of Evans, Coach Balcer said, “He’s been very consistent and very solid. He sat the bench and watched and learned for two years. He was ready this year, luckily, because as bad as it’s been at times, I’d hate to see what it’d be like if he wasn’t playing.”
For the team overall, Balcer believes the players must recommit themselves to the team and its objectives.
“We need better buy-in,” he observed. “When we come back, they’re not going to like being around me – it’s not going to be fun.”
Throwing in a point of encouragement for Griffins fans, he pointed out a trend in recent seasons: “We sort of start out slow and then finish stronger, although that’s not really something I’m proud of. One of these years, I’ll figure out how we can get out to a quick start.”