On Friday night, the Bruins invited the Clearwater Christian Cougars to a thunderous Davis Field House, packed with 3,000 enthusiastic fans.
The Bruins had lost to their rival from the South earlier in the season and were looking for redemption. But the night ushered in a not-so-distant memory of heartbreak and disappointment as the Bruins fell to the Cougars by a single point, ending the game 74-73. This end to an important game is all too familiar to the Bruins, who lost to Pensacola recently by only two points.
After the Pensacola loss, coach Neal Ring and the players stressed the importance of improving their defense. Practices before the Clearwater game focused on defensive pressure and help defense, both of which are crucial to winning at a high level. To the Bruins’ credit, the defense looked better at times in the game on Friday night, prompting Coach Ring to comment on the team’s disruption of the Cougars’ transition play.
In the first half, the Bruins jumped to a 19-11 lead, as they effectively executed on both ends of the court. But as soon as the Bruins’ defense or offense proved the slightest bit lax, the Cougars would take advantage. Clearwater then tore its way back with a 7-0 run. In return, the Bruins mounted a 7-point attack of their own that was answered by a Cougar 3-pointer to close the half. This incessant game of pingpong was characteristic of the game and proved to be the Achilles’ heel for the Bruins on this important night.
The second half was more of the same, as the Bruins struggled to find a perfect balance of defensive and offensive presence. The team improved its defense at times, but struggled to find offensive rhythm. When the offense was doing well, it seemed the defense weakened. “We would make a play on offense and come back and give up a basket,” Coach Ring said after the game.
The game came down to the wire, and the Bruins did their best in the last few minutes to edge ahead. Sophomore Larry Taylor had the chance to tie the game from the free-throw line with only seconds remaining, but the shot rattled wide as the pressure took its toll. With the loss, the Bruins fell to 10-12 on the season and look ahead to next week. “We have to put this loss behind us,” Coach Ring said to his players. “We don’t play this team again. If we allow this loss to come with us into our next game, we allow them to beat us again.”