Basketball

The Lancer men’s basketball exudes calm and confidence when the pressure is highest

The Lancer men's basketball exudes calm and confidence when the pressure is highest

In their first Big South conference game against rival Radford, the Lancers were tested. It wouldn’t be the last time.

A half-court buzzer-beater sent Radford’s game into overtime. Against Gardner-Webb, the Lancers were down 6 points with two minutes left. Against Presbyterian, they were down by 2 with 13 seconds left.

In every game, they found a way to land a big hit, make a wild run, or get a defensive save to secure a win.

As the Big South tournament kicks off this week, Longwood’s historic journey to the No. 1 seed has been defined by what the head coach Griff Aldrich calls for a “steel confidence and calm” when the pressure mounts.

Radford’s game – which ended in an 8-point overtime victory for Longwood – kicked off a 10-game conference winning streak – one of the longest in the nation. And it typified the kind of resilience that has come to define this Lancer squad as they prepare for their Big South Tournament opener at noon on Friday, March 4.

“The character of a team is as much a skill set as the plays they make on the field,” Aldrich said. “Their character, their chemistry, their positivity, their trust in each other. And this is a team that has a lot of trust and a lot of trust in each other and trust in each other. get tight, they actually calm down even more, increase their focus and the level of execution increases significantly It’s something that’s built from pre-season through the guts of the season, and when you come back and win close matches, it just builds your faith and trust in one another.”

It’s been the defining story of the entire season – that feeling that no matter the score, the Lancers will always fight, especially at Willett Hall where the mantra of ‘Pack The Hall’ has taken on a life of its own at the club. noisy student. section. The energy of the crowds helped fuel these comebacks as the decibels rise with each successive basket.

“It’s unreal how loud it can be in this gymnasium,” said the senior goalkeeper Isaiah Wilkins. “At the end of the Winthrop game, Zac [Watson] dunked it and I couldn’t believe how excited everyone was. And even though I’m not usually like that, I just had to participate. It’s a really cool feeling – seeing people supporting you and knowing that the fan base comes every time just to see you play is very motivating to us. I mean, listen, we only lost one game at Willett Hall this year? You can’t ask for a better season than this.”

In fact, there have been 10 conference games this season where Longwood has tied or trailed in the second half. Their record in these games? 9-1.

So three days after the overtime win at Radford, with the Lancers trailing 6 points with less than two minutes left against Gardner-Webb, no one at Willett Hall started heading for the exits. Instead, they were on their feet, calling for defensive positions and exploding with every basket. And they weren’t disappointed: a six-point Lancer victory and a celebration between players and fans that solidified the energy of Willett Hall’s “sixth man.”

“There was a really interesting and unique bond that developed almost overnight between the fans – both the students and the community members who came out to support us – and the players,” said Aldrich, Big South’s 2022 Coach of the Year, who can often be seen cheering on the rowdy student section to make even more noise. “There were several games where we had electric atmospheres. And when you know you have the crowd, that’s a major catalyst in giving you more energy and more fighting to make and finish plays.”

But it’s not just the ability to come back from deficits that is the hallmark of this men’s team. It’s that no matter the situation, they don’t panic. This is because they play with a foundation of mutual trust.

“I think our confidence comes from all the hard work we’ve put in,” senior guard Deshaun Wade said. “We’ve been going there since the summer, and when you work as hard as we do, you have no choice but to be confident. We fight against each other in training and know what we’re up to. each capable. And when you couple that with the experience of this team, we’re not too fazed.”

“It shows who we are as people,” Wilkins acknowledges. “A lot of us have never really had the chance to show what we can really do, and we’re hungry to show the world what kind of talent we have.”

This week’s tournament is a prelude to that stage – and those who tune in will likely get a taste of the courage that defines this team.

The Lancers kick off the Big South Tournament tomorrow, Friday, March 4 at noon against North Carolina A&T State at Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, NC Big South regular season winners, the Lancers have already earned an automatic bid in the National Invitational Tournament, but by winning their first Big South tournament, they could secure the university’s first-ever bid for the NCAA Tournament.

The Big South Tournament semi-finals will take place on Saturday, March 5 and the championship game at noon on Sunday, March 6. All matches can be watched on ESPN+, except for the league match, which will be shown on ESPN2. All games will be broadcast on 92.9 Kickin’ Country radio.

Lancers in numbers

109
Highest point total in a single game this season (vs. Pfeiffer University)

42
Biggest winning margin this season (98-56 win over Carolina University)

29
Most points scored in a match by a player (Justin Hill against Winthrop)

14
Most 3-pointers made as a team in a game (vs. Winthrop)

11
Longest winning streak

6
Most 3-pointers made in a game by a player (Deshaun Wade vs. Campbell)

5
Times this season the Lancers have kept opponents under 50 points

1
Loss at Willett Hall