By William Callahan
The Sacred Heart University men’s basketball team has reached the midpoint of its season and they are looking to finish strong.
The Pioneers have accumulated an 8-15 record so far, going 3-7 in conference play.
“We have done some positive things both offensively and defensively,” said Coach Anthony Latina. “We’re getting contributions from everyone on the team.”
The Pioneers are currently in the midst of a four game losing streak, dropping their last two contests at home to LIU Brooklyn 60-57 and at Mount St. Mary’s 67-53.
“Although the team has played hard, we have not finished games well, and as a result we have lost a lot of close games,” said Latina. “Going forward, in order to turn things around, we are going to need to be more consistent throughout a 40 minute game. We are not that far away and we will continue to work to find that consistency,” he said.
While the Pioneers have struggled at home this season in only winning two games on their turf, they have played strong on the road going 5-6. Some of their big wins have come against rival schools, such as Fordham University, Central Connecticut State and Bryant University.
The Pioneers’ 112-110 triple overtime victory against Bryant was arguably their best win of the season.
Sophomore guard Qunicy McKnight poured in 44 points to lead the Pioneers to victory. He shot 16 of 26 from the field and added six assists to go along with his nine rebounds.
While the Pioneers have had some good wins on the road this season, they have also experienced some close losses. The Pioneers have lost seven games by 10 points or less this season.
Despite the close losses, Latina feels strongly that his team has more to offer.
“While we have done some positive things, we are not satisfied at all with where we are at this point,” said
Latina. “We believe we have much more in the tank and can play better overall as a team.”
The Pioneers this season has been led by McKnight, junior Joseph Lopez, and redshirt senior Matej Buovac. They are the leading scorers on the team with McKnight averaging 19.0 points per game, Lopez averaging almost 13 points, and Buovac averaging 9.3 points per game.
Lopez has also been a force on the boards averaging 8.6 rebounds a game. McKnight has been doing his part as point guard, averaging almost five assists a game.
The Pioneers’ focus for the rest of the season is finishing strong and earning the best possible seed in the conference tournament at the end of the season.
“You can expect our team to give maximum effort every time we play and do everything within our control to finish the season strong like we have done our last two seasons,” said Latina. “Our guys always play hard and with confidence, and if we continue to do that, then we will have a successful stretch.”
If the last two seasons are an indication of how the Pioneers will finish this season, they just might get that finish they are working for. The 2014-15 Pioneers finished 12-18 but won seven of their last ten games, while last year’s team finished 15-17 with a 6-3 finish to the season.
Both teams lost in the quarterfinals of the NEC tournament.
The Pioneers have their next game Feb. 2 at Fairleigh Dickinson University before hosting four games at home at the William H. Pitt Center. These games include rematches with Bryant, Central Connecticut State and Fairleigh Dickinson, as well as Saint Francis Brooklyn.
They will finish with three road games at LIU Brooklyn, Saint Francis U, and Robert Morris.
The NEC Tournament begins on March 1.