The men’s basketball team find themselves in the middle of the conference, as they look to the second half of the season.
With a 13-5 record and 6-5 in conference play, the Sea Lions look to keep their PacWest playoff hopes alive with 10 games remaining in the season.
They are currently one game ahead of Hawaii Hilo University for the last playoff spot.
Fourth year head coach Bill Carr said the team needs to improve as the season eclipses the halfway point.
“We talk about it everyday—you have to keep getting better. You have to come to practice with a little chip on your shoulder and some hunger to get better that day,” said Carr. “Then we can have a great season by the time it’s over. It’s a long season, it’s a journey, but certainly a fun one.”
Carr said the Hawaii trip – during which the Sea Lions added three wins to their winning streak – was an opportune time for team growth and having fun.
“It was the first time we were away together as a group for an extended period of time,” said Carr. “So it was great for bonding, it was great for team morale and getting closer, and it led to three huge wins for us in conference.”
Senior Junior Morgan, co-leader in points and second-highest rebounder on the team next to Judd Welfringer, said the team enjoyed some leisure time on the trip.
“It was a great time to spend with the team—we were around each other pretty much 24/7,” said Morgan. “We walked around Waikiki [Honolulu], we went to the beach, did all of these little team activities like karaoke night at Shorebirds Restaurant, which is always fun.”
Aside from the trip, the Sea Lions have used a well-balanced offensive attack against their opponents this season. The team has four players averaging at least 11.1 points per game, while averaging 70.6 points per game as a combined whole — their third-highest average in the last seven seasons while allowing 64 points per game—good for second best in the conference.
Their unselfish play as evidenced by their 14.8 assists per game average, has created scoring opportunities for leading three-point shooter Sam Okhotin as well.
“I play with such great players around me. Marek [Klassen], Hayden [Lescault], Junior [Morgan] were all conference players last season,” said Okhotin. “So the opposing defense really focuses in on them, which makes my job so much easier because my defender leaves to help on them. They’re such great passers, where they just hit me in rhythm. So really the credit goes to them.”
The team looks to continue their success in conference play. They will take on Holy Names 3-16 in Oakland this Thursday.
After getting off to a rough start, the women’s basketball team has regained their momentum by claiming the last seven of nine games to improve their record to 9-9 with a 7-4 record in conference play.
Head Coach Bill Westphal said the underclassmen helped the team with this recent surge.
“We’ve been playing a few more , the young players are starting to contribute more,” said Westphal. “We’re understanding better what we’re trying to do on offense and on defense we’ve been able to play really hard the last few games.”
Sophomore Madison West has been an incremental part of the Sea Lion’s recent success; averaging a second best 13 points per game. This is a vast improvement from her first year at PLNU during which she scored 3.4 points last season.
“I am really trying to emphasize my defense and rebounding. Our team has been struggling on the boards so I want to use my height to help out the team,” said West. “And individually [I] just [want] to play better and talk on defense.”
Senior and 2013-14 All-American Jessica Escorza, who is leading the team in points, rebounds and assists this season, said the relationships between the players has improved greatly since their season opener.
“Our team chemistry is 10 times better than what it was from our first game,” Escorza said. “I really think that had a lot to do with hanging out in Hawaii and being here over break together. We’ve come to be great friends and I think that carries on to the courts.”
While the Sea Lions have outscored their opponents by an astounding average of 16 points per game during the five-game winning streak and going 6-2 during the month of January, Westphal said the team has to improve on the boards.
“We haven’t reached our goals yet as far as rebounding,” said Westphal. “That has been a perennial problem with this program. We’ve had a few games where we have outrebounded the other team, but that has to remain a focus for us. We also need to limit our turnovers and fouls. When we rebound and win the turnover battle, we’re a very good team.”
The Sea Lions take on Holy Names (2-15) this Thursday in Oakland.