The Bruins have matured and grown remarkably over the past two seasons. The defensive struggles and offensive inconsistencies, which can only be expected from a young team, have exponentially improved over the course of this second season. Controlling the flow of the game, anticipating teammates’ decisions and having a sixth sense of where the ball will go next — all these skills come with practice, hard work and experience, and eventually lead to wins. The Bruins have now won three games in a row and have regained .500 on the season, a much more stable position than just one year ago.
“It’s encouraging to see guys who have confidence, especially late in the season going into tournament time,” sophomore Larry Taylor said. Confidence is one of the most important attributes of a team, and a young team in particular. The Bruins entered the recent game against the Warren Wilson College Owls, confident that they would pull away with a win and move up to .500.
Right from the opening tip, BJU made that clear with a 9-0 opening run. Three-pointers from Zach Mercado, who finished with 21 points, and a powerful first-half performance from Darnel Antoine provided the pace and control of tempo that the Bruins were looking for. “We are in a better rhythm offensively,” Mercado said.
The Bruins continued to push the ball and maintain control of the game in the second half. Taylor, who was held to only two points in the first half, adjusted and answered by offering 15 points for the Bruins in the second, and BJU came away with a 76-65 victory. Much of the team’s confidence this season can be credited to the offense’s ability to create open looks, an especially valuable trait with shooters like Evan Brondyke and Mercado on the floor.
Taylor and Antoine’s ability to get into the lane and find the open man complements the deep shooting, but it is not only the offense that has improved for the Bruins.
The defense looks tighter, more responsive and more aware than their first season. The team has found a rhythm, and the Owls couldn’t break it Friday night. It is this rhythm of confidence that will push the Bruins forward as they close out a drastically improved season.