With the Iowa winter in full throttle and students still making their way on to campus the Grinnell College men’s basketball team entertained a couple of conference foes in Darby, losing two crucial games by slim margins this past weekend, first to Carroll University and then to nationally ranked St. Norbert College.
Early in the game against Carroll, things looked bleak for the Pioneers, as they found themselves down by 21 points early in the second half. However, streaky shooting by Matt Chalupa ’12, Bobby Long ’09, and John Grotberg ’09 brought the Pioneers within inches of victory. The lead was too much and the Pioneers lost 108-102.
The Pioneers mainly attribute their struggle against Carroll to mental unpreparedness. “At home when we played them we came out a little flat, just not mentally ready,” said Ross Preston ’10.
The high scorer against Carroll, Chalupa also delivered a similar sentiment. “This weekend we just need to get ready to play,” Chalupa said. “The first half we were so dead and there was no energy in the gym.”
As a result of this mental slippage, the Pioneers fell behind and missed many shots. “If you look at what we shot from the three, it was piss-poor,” Preston said.
Despite the hard-fought loss, the Grinnell men went into the second night, facing St. Norbert, who are ranked 17th nationally, in high spirits. “It was interesting because they are nationally ranked and undefeated in our conference, but they haven’t won on our court in a while,” Preston said. “It wasn’t like they were a heavy favorite.”
These high spirits certainly manifested themselves on the court, as the high scoring, typical of the Pioneer’s “system” style of play, returned to the court. Grotberg and Long scored 26 and 25 points, respectively, while David Arseneault ’09 contributed 19 points and five assists.
But the return of their offensive prowess wasn’t enough for the Pioneers. The game was tight throughout, during which the largest margin of difference had been four points until St. Norbert put together a triumphant streak of 14 straight points, going on to win 107-96.
Even with these two close games, the Pioneers remain optimistic for their upcoming games. “Last weekend was a lost opportunity,” Preston said. “But this weekend is a chance to rectify those mistakes.”
The men’s team is now 5-2 in conference play and 8-5 overall, fourth in conference–the top four teams make the conference tournament. This weekend, the men are on the road, playing Lawrence University on Friday, Jan 23, and have another shot at Carroll University on Saturday, Jan 24.