Springfield College’s men’s basketball team shocked the country on Sunday afternoon by handing the fifth ranked WPI Engineers their first setback of the season. At the time of the game, though, WPI was ranked second in the nation.
Earlier today, Noontime Sports caught up with head coach Charlie Brock to discuss his team’s win, as well as his team’s outlook toward their final two regular season contests against Clark University and Wheaton College.
On beating WPI: “Well first of all, we played well on Sunday and to beat a team like WPI you have to (because) they’re very, very good and they are a very, very good shooting team from the perimeter. All of their perimeter guys including Ryan Kolb, who’s an inside player that can shoot three’s really well, so that spreads the floor and creates matchup problems, and secondly I thought when we were (playing at WPI in Worcester) and they forced you to do this they are a very good defensively and they force you to do things that you’re not comfortable with typically and I thought we played with a little bit more patience on Sunday than we did up there, and maybe created a better opportunity for scoring for ourselves.”
On the team’s defense and free throw shooting: “I think we’ve evolved as the season has gone along into a better defensive team, a little bit better understanding of what needs to be done with certain players depending upon the kind of player they are and free throw shooting (is something) we all work on. If there were a miracle cure for how to be a great free throw shooting team, we’d all be doing it. It’s one of those things you don’t find in the manual. And at a crucial time of the game and always in a close game, if you knock them down it makes a difference and we did (against WPI).”
On utilizing every member of the team: “They get comfortable with the rotations with the way we would like to do them. Some things mess that up a little bit like guys getting in foul trouble and Sean Martin got into some trouble against WPI, which gave Matt Pascuzzo an opportunity for more minutes and he gave us a great lift and he’s a little water bug, he’s all over the floor. And Tim Swenson, (who) is in a six-year program, a very challenging physical therapy program and the first two years out of high school, we recruited him, but he didn’t think he was going to have time to play, but this is his first year (on our team and) he’s just now coming into a situation where he’s becoming a little bit more comfortable wit what he can do. He was getting in foul trouble early and he’s settled into that situation a little bit, and he’s a good strong body coming in off the bench. We’ve got some great big guys in our league (like) Will Tashman from MIT is a great player, Brian Vayda from Clark University is a great player, and John Wickey from Babson College is a great player, and Kolb is an outstanding player.”
On how the WPI win will help the Pride: “Well we hope so. Again, you’ve got to play well now at this stage of the game (because) it’s crunch time and every time you put your foot on the floor we’ve got to play well, we’ve got to do certain things well, you have to win the battles of the boards, you have to win the battles of the fouls and you have to win the battles of defensive field goal percentage. One of the factors (from) the WPI game was that we were able to get their shooting percentage a little bit lower than they’re accustomed to and have been doing and it was a factor in the game. It was a 60 point game instead of something in the mid 70’s.”
On finishing the regular season on a strong note: “Right now we’re just taking almost every moment at a time and that’s what we try to sell to the degree to which they buy into that and athletes are kind of fickle and you don’t know what they’re thinking, but the main thing we do now is focus on what we’ve got to do to win a game against a really good Clark team. I was just looking at some of their games and they’ve got three games that they’ve lost by one point, one of them in overtime to Tufts University the other night. They got a win over Eastern Connecticut (a squad) that’s a potential NCAA team early in the year. They go down to New York University and lose by one, and we were able to outlast them the first we played them. It was a great game. Their record is deceiving, they’re really good, they’ve got really good players, they’re very well coached and we’ve just got to live in the moment here and do (our best) and try to limit what they want to do and see if we can win the game.”
On the play of Alex Berthiaume: “Well he does a great job of making players around him better. He’s an outstanding passer. He’s a very good ball handler and he contributes to the team’s success for sure in so many ways. The thing that’s interesting about him was last year it was kind of an unknown and even during the course of the year even though he was having great games he was still an unknown, but he wasn’t an unknown this year and so he becomes a focus for teams going against him. If (teams are) going to beat us, they’ll have to limit what he does and that’s what made it more difficult for him. He did sustain an injury just before the holidays and actually over the past couple of weeks has really just ironed itself out to where earlier in January he was a little bit hampered by it. I think he’s very healthy right now, but we’re waiting on another player that we lost (Jordan Rote) a couple of weeks ago and he hasn’t played the last four games and one of those games (was against WPI in Worcester and we were) learning to play without Jordan because he brings such a different kind of look to (our unit). He’s a (player that can get inside), and the kid that replaced him (Nick Sienkiewicz) had a monster game against WPI the other day and he’s a different player, so as a team we’re getting used to that and we’re hopeful that we get Jordan back full strength for the tournament and that’s kind of a long range goal we’ve got right now.”
On being successful in the NEWMAC tournament: “I think any (team from the conference) is capable (of winning the tournament). In order to get there and win it, you can’t stain any injuries to key players, you’ve got to play with smarts (because) you’re doing executing and doing things well, not turning the ball over and taking care of it, and defensively now it becomes even more of a premium because as we go along every game gets tougher and tougher and kids playing harder and harder, so I think if you look at some of the scores of our league against teams from other leagues, we’ve been able to do pretty well, so I think any (team) could make some hay in the tournament.”