|Streaking Bulls build momentum|
|JCSU’s 4-game win streak is best since 2010-11|
|Published Wednesday, January 16, 2013 5:44 pm|
Johnson C. Smith basketball is hitting stride at the right time.
|Johnson C. Smith forward Terrence Washington goes up for a dunk over Virginia State’s Kenny Mitchell in the Golden Bulls’ 67-54 win on Jan. 14.|
The Golden Bulls have won four straight games – their best streak of the season. More encouraging, the wins were against CIAA North opponents after dropping their first two interdivision games. Although the Golden Bulls (11-5, 4-2) are relatively inexperienced, their maturation is becoming evident.
“I thought the players bought in early, which is what they customarily do at the beginning of the year, then we lost focus,” coach Steve Joyner said. “It’s just a refocus or redefining of what we need to do to be successful, and the players are buying in and trying to accomplish team goals and objectives.”
Much has gone right for JCSU on both ends of the court during the streak with an average margin of victory of 24.25 points. Opponents have converted only 67-of-203 field goal tries (29.5 percent) during the stretch.
“We had 21 assists (in an 89-57 win against Elizabeth City State), and I thought we were sharing the ball extremely well on offense and defensively, it was one of the better defensive efforts I’ve seen,” Joyner said. “(ECSU standout Angelo) Sharpless had (19 points) at halftime, but he got (eight) in the second half. A few other people started scoring, but for the most part he was trying to beat us by himself.”
That hasn’t been enough against the Golden Bulls, who are getting better production throughout their rotation. The bench has provided a spark, whether it’s 6-foot-9 freshman center Alandre Davis scoring a career-best 10 points against Elizabeth City State or forward Antwan Wilkerson hauling down 10 rebounds to go with eight points against the Vikings.
“We kept telling (players) ‘it may not be your offense, but you can rebound,” Joyner said. “I think players are looking for other ways to contribute.”
Said Wilkinson after a 14-point, six-rebound effort in Monday’s 67-53 win against Virginia State: “I just try to come in off the bench and show what I can do. I’m coming off an injury, so I’m trying to get back at it as best I can.”
Point guard Trevin Parks, the second-leading scorer in NCAA Division II, has been consistent during the streak, with a high of 32 points on 9-of-16 shooting against Elizabeth City State. He’s also getting help. Forward Emilio Parks is the inside scoring presence that demands opponents’ attention and Terrance Washington has brought energetic athleticism as a shot-blocker and ferocious dunker. As a team, the Golden Bulls are also taking better care of the ball during the streak, with 70 assists against 45 turnovers – a sign that passing has been a key to their success.
“I think we can when we share the basketball,” Joyner said. “If we continue to mature and get rid of the self attitude and be more concerned about the team, we’ll be in good shape. We hope we can continue to play together as a group and get better.”
That’s the challenge in the CIAA South, where Winston-Salem State, Shaw and Livingstone are a combined 34-9 before the start of division play. JCSU, Joyner believes, can use its success against the North as motivation to compete in the South.
“It’s part of our development,” he said. “We’re pointing to our cross-division record that might be significant to us when it comes down to the end of the year, but more important, it’s our last tune-up before divisional play.
“Each night, each game brings on new meaning and probably in some regards more important meaning. It’s important now that we’re winning. We hope we can continue.”
“The more we play, the more we grow up, the more we mature, the better off we’re becoming a team,” Joyner said.
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