It was a crosstown match up in Dubuque last weekend when the men’s basketball team traveled to the other end of Loras Boulevard to take on against the University of Dubuque Spartans on Saturday.
Earlier in the week, the men lost to the Central College Dutch, 71-68, resulting in a must-win situation on Saturday against Dubuque for any chance of keeping their season alive and getting a spot in the conference tournament.
Having the home-court advantage, the Spartans came out strong. The Duhawks struggled offensively in the first half, as they were only able to put up 17 points to the Spartans 31. Along with shooting 2-for-9 from 3-point range, the men also committed numerous turnovers and fouls that put the Duhawks in a difficult spot.
In the second half, the Duhawks started to turn their game up, but the 14-point lead was too big for them to come back from.
Nathaniel Smith, the leading scorer of the game, scored 20 points for Loras, but it was not enough to close the gap.
The 67-52 loss to the Spartans brought the Duhawks season to an end as the final conference tournament spot went to Simpson, who beat Central on Saturday.
“Even though our record was obviously not what we wanted and we didn’t accomplish what we should have, we are taking out the positives to build for next year,” said sophomore guard Bobby Harmening.
The end of the season also marks the departure of two seniors, Connor Mooney and Kevin Walsh, who were two of the more dedicated players of the men’s basketball program, filling their spots will be something every player on the team will strive for.
To the Duhawks benefit, there will be a number of returners coming back next season. Ending with a record of 8-17 overall, the men walk away from this season with many positives instead of asking themselves what might have been.
“I think the biggest thing that happened over the season was that we gained some really good experience in close games,” said sophomore center Jake Rutan. “Since we’re so young, it gave us confidence that we can play with anyone and that we’re going to be pretty tough going forward into the upcoming season.”
Not having the season he had hoped for, Coach Greg Gorton also is focusing on the positives ahead for the team regarding future success with the returners and newcomers of next season.
“If our guys commit themselves to improvement in the off-season, we have a very good chance to be a championship team. Our guys cannot rest in their development. We know the areas we need to improve,” said Coach Gorton. “Now it’s just a matter of making that happen. Continuing to work on their weaknesses is a huge key for this off-season. That can be physical, mental, and skill development. I believe in our team and know there is a strong hunger to improve.”