'Cats still looking for first win
The saying goes that basketball is a game of runs, but Tuesday night, the run never came to the Linfield men’s basketball team. The Wildcats lost 86-66 vs. Warner Pacific at Ted Wilson Gymnasium, dropping Linfield’s record to 0-3 to start the season.
“We just didn’t have enough guys play well tonight,” Linfield coach Larry Doty said.
The Wildcats had three players in double digits, led by sophomore Andrew Batiuk with 16 points. Cory Hendryx and Zach Meikle both scored 13 points, but in Linfield’s secondary-break offense, Doty needs more than just a handful of players to play well. The substitutions come fast (Linfield played 15 players).
“You’re relying on starters and reserves coming off the bench and contributing in a positive manner,” Doty said. “We had too many turnovers tonight.
“We felt like coming off two tough losses on the road in California, the result would be much better tonight. It just didn’t happen.
The Wildcats jumped out to 21-12 lead on the Knights (5-1), using their fast break to get easy baskets. Then the turnovers started coming, and Warner Pacific went on an 11-0 run to take a 23-21.
“We were getting stops, getting the ball off the board and hustling down the floor,” Doty said. “Once they started getting to the foul line and outmuscling us inside, then we were going against a zone defense every trip down the floor and we didn’t play well against the zone.
“They’re a veteran team. They’re a strong team. They didn’t let the pressure bother them.”
Linfield turned the ball over 19 times. Warner Pacific had 18 turnovers, but that stat is one of what Doty calls the “Big three.” The Knights made more free throws (17) than the Wildcats attempted (11) and also outrebound Linfield (38-29).
“When those three stats go bad, the result is not usually very good,” Doty said.
Youth has been a theme for Linfield the past couple of seasons, and this year is no different. Doty started three sophomores Tuesday, and on Linfield’s two-game trip in California, he started a freshman. He still isn’t making excuses.
“There are enough veterans on the team for us to compete better than we did,” Doty said. “I think strength was a big factor tonight, especially inside. … Somewhere along the line you just can’t use the excuse that we’re just too young. There are freshman all over that are being successful.
Some of Linfield’s younger players are having to take on bigger roles this year. Batiuk is Linfield’s leading returning scorer from a year ago and will have to take more of that load this year.
“He is our guy,” Doty said. “We are going to rely on him. He’s going to be one of the premiere post players in the conference this year.”
Also starting as a sophomore is Brandon Harris, who graduated from McMinnville High School in 2011. Harris scored seven points Tuesday.
“He ran a team (at McMinnville),” Doty said. “He’s doing that for us too and he’s done a good job. He played his rear end down in California.”
Doty said the rough start to the season — losing to three NAIA schools and losing close in two games — has been a bit trying and the players are disappointed. He said after the game, Meikle said to the team that they have to put some W’s in the column to get things going.
“That’s important,” Doty said, “and at some point we will.”
Notes: Warner Pacific led 44-38 at halftime. ... Stephen Harris scored 26 points for the Knights.