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AlumNews: Talon Articles

Eagles continue to improve, gain experience

Tuesday, February 5, 2008  
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By Tiffany Sherman

With the men's basketball season halfway over, a 4-8 conference record has left a bitter taste in the player's mouths, but the inexperienced Eagles have continued to improve throughout the season.

The Eagle's season started with many unexpected hardships. With the loss of the team's only senior, Jared Mitchell, and the unfortunate injury of transfer junior, Lionel Saban, the team lost size and experience only time and practice could heal.

"With the loss of Lionel and Mitchell, our team isn't as big or athletic as other teams in our conference," junior Kyle Tefft said. "We also lost experience. At the beginning of the season, our team was young and inexperienced, and we have had to work past that."

The lack of experience, and the sudden change in dynamics, brought about a series of losses at the beginning of the season.

"We lost four games in a row twice, and that wears you down mentally," sophomore Jon Jonsson said.

The Eagles have tried to overcome the early losses and their play has improved since the beginning of the season.

"Overall, our progress has come a long way," head coach Dan Hays said. "One thing helping our team is our shooting. We struggled at the beginning with our shooting percentage, but it has steadily been on the climb."

Big scorers like Tefft, and sophomore Jason Taylor have helped with this progression. Taylor leads the team in field goal percentage followed by Tefft. Taylor also leads the team with an average of 19.2 points per game scored. Tefft averages 15.4 points per game.

Scoring baskets is not the only thing the team is working on. Defense and ball skills are aspects the team is looking to improve at as well.

"To be able to win over the leaders in our conference, we need to rebound better than them," Jon Jonsson said.

Junior forward John Powell has given the Eagles a solid rebounding presence, despite a knee injury.

"Players like John Powell are crucial. He plays with a knee injury, but you still see him get rebounds that are amazing," Taylor said.

The Eagles feel their future looks bright, and the team has high hopes for the rest of the season.

"At this point in the season, we are playing good enough to beat anyone. We just have to continue to shoot well," Tefft said.

With the conference tournament right around the corner, the Eagles aren't looking too far ahead.

"Our only goal is the next game. We play our best in the next game," Hays said. "The only team on our radar is the next team we play, period."

The Eagles hope playing one game at a time will help the them continue to improve.

"Like all teams, we have gone through peaks and valleys, but our goal every day and every game is to be better," Taylor said. "We are a brotherhood, always there to help pick each other up."

Like any other team in any other sport, the Eagles are looking for fan support.

"Half of the season has gone by, and half of the crowd is still watching us play at home. Props to you fans supporting our tough season," Jonsson said.

The team is above conference averages in field goal percentage, two point field goal percentage, free throw percentage, assists and steals. The team averages 65.7 points per game and has netted a field goal percentage of 43.5 while making 71.3 percent of their free throws.

The Eagle's next home game is Saturday Feb. 9 against St. Gregory University. Tip-off is set for 8:00 p.m.

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