With just seven games left to play in the regular season, the men’s basketball team currently finds itself right in the thick of a tight race to make the Liberty League playoffs for the second straight year.
The Dutchmen currently hold the fourth and final playoff spot with a 5-4 conference record, just barely ahead of RIT (6-5) and Clarkson (5-5).
A dominant second half propelled the Dutchmen to a huge, 71-54 win over Clarkson last Saturday on the road, the team’s fourth straight victory.
Trailing by one at the half, Union outscored the Golden Knights 42-24 in the second half. Top scorer and team standout Deshon Burgess ’17 led the way with 20 points while captain Wade McNamara ’17 added 10 points, 13 rebounds, seven steals and five assists. Kevin Weckworth ’17 also chipped in with 16 points, including 3 three-pointers, off the bench.
Union’s winning streak was snapped the next day by St. Lawrence, the team tied with Skidmore for the top spot in the league standings; the game ended with a final score of 90-85.
St. Lawrence’s 90 points marked the most points Union has given up in a league game all season.
McNamara had another double-double, racking up 19 points and 10 rebounds. Burgess had a team-high 21 points, while Greg King ’18 added 16. Matt Liquori ’18 came off the bench to nab nine points and eight rebounds.
With several teams still jockeying for a playoff spot, the Dutchmen face some critical challenges down the upcoming stretch. Union still has to take on Skidmore, the two-time defending league champions, on Feb. 11 at home; the Dutchmen also still have to face off against a tough RIT squad twice.
A showdown with Hobart (6-4) on the last day of the regular season may also have big playoff implications.
Though they currently hold a playoff spot, the Dutchmen expect more out of this year’s team.
“I feel that we haven’t reached our potential yet this season,” said Captain Zach Bouton ’17. “I think we need to just try and improve every day, whether it is in film sessions or at practice. The little things go a long way.”
For the five seniors on the team, this season is their last chance to win a championship, something the men’s basketball program hasn’t won since the 2004-2005 season and an opportunity the seniors don’t take lightly.
“I think this team is a lot more experienced than teams in the past. We have five seniors that have a heavy influence on our team and that’s the difference-maker this year,” added Bouton, “It’s our last shot, so we are giving it all we’ve got.”
Union has a great opportunity to improve their playoff chances this weekend, as they go back on the road to take on Vassar and Bard, the bottom two teams in the league.