From the outside looking in it’s easy to assume that the 2014-15 Lancers men’s basketball team is in the midst of a rebuilding season. With an overall record of 1-5, and having lost five consecutive games, the team has their work cut out for them if they intend on repeating last season’s successful playoff run.
Despite an embarrassing home-opener against region No. 4-ranked San Bernardino Valley College on Nov. 21, in which the Lancers were held to their lowest point total in 52 years during a 73-30 thrashing, head coach Michael Swanegan and the players remain focused and confident that they can turn the season around and compete on a nightly basis.
“[Against San Bernardino] we just didn’t play a good ball game,” Swanegan said. “We didn’t play very well and we couldn’t hit any shots but that’s just one game. We haven’t had our whole team for the whole year. Our main goal is to get everyone healthy and we should be alright.”
Against SBVC, the Lancers were affected by foul trouble to leading scorers Keith Langston and reserve forward Jaryn Taylor as well as poor shooting from the field. The pair combined to shoot a disappointing 5-of-20 from the field before both fouled out in the second half. The Lancers were also outrebounded 46-27, including 17 untimely offensive rebounds.
According to Swanegan, an ankle injury will keep returning sophomore center Faruk Oyalade on the sidelines for the next couple of weeks.
Although PCC may be thin in the post until Oyalade returns, the Lancers should get a boost in production from freshman guard Dejon Williams and 6-foot-6 forward Donell Tuff. Both Williams and Tuff played in their first game of the season against SBVC after competing for the Lancers football team. Already the tandem has been a positive improvement for the young squad.
“They bring physical and mental toughness that we were lacking at the beginning of the season,” Langston said. “[Williams] shooting skills, his toughness and his strength, man, looking good.”
Against SBVC, Tuff was the lone positive in the paint for the Lancers, recording seven points, seven rebounds and three steals. Although Tuff’s energy and physical play was on display during his first collegiate start, like the rest of the team Tuff struggled from the field, connecting on only 3-of-10 field goals and 1-of-7 free-throws.
“I put most of the blame of myself,” Tuff said. “I kept cramping up and I wasn’t fully in shape, despite playing football.”
Another bright spot for the Lancers has been the continued improvement of reserve guard Andrew Harper. Against SBVC, Harper gave the Lancers a spark off the bench with eight points, two rebounds and two assists on 3-of-7 shooting from the field. Although the game was out of reach by halftime, Harper’s energy and defensive intensity remained a positive for the Lancers.
“Our guard play has to get better,” Swanegan said. “We have young guards who are still learning what we want done. We’re looking for consistency at the guard position. I’m not looking for a shooter, I’m looking for someone who can run the offense and get other people involved.”
Although the Lancers are currently in last place in the always-talented South Coast North Division, don’t count the young squad out. With an experienced coach at the helm and a young core of athletic talent, the Lancers appear much better than their record indicates.
The Lancers next play at the 42nd Santa Barbara City College Classic Dec. 11 to 13.