Over the past month, the UT Permian Basin basketball team went from having one loss to losing six of their last eight games. Josh Newman, the Falcons’ first-year head coach eluded at his weekly press conference on Monday, that the reason his team has been struggling is due to their play in the second half, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
“Right now, we’re having a hard time getting key stops especially in the second half,” Newman said. “Some of the problems we’ve had all year are starting to surface, like not taking care of the basketball. We’re having way too many turnovers especially in crunch time and we’re not rebounding the ball well defensively.”
The Falcons (10-7, 3-4 in LSC) have led going into halftime in their last three losses, the most recent coming on Saturday against Texas A&M Kingsville (8-7, 4-3). UTPB led 34-22 at halftime before the Javelinas outscored the Falcons 58-38 in the second half, losing 80-72.
Last Thursday in a back and forth game with Angelo State (12-4, 5-2), UTPB held a one-point lead at the half, but the Rams pulled away after going on an 8-2 run with five minutes left, winning 95-91. The last of the losses, came a week prior at Midwestern State (6-11, 2-5), where the Falcons’ held a 34-29 lead and then lost 73-65.
One of the problems for this year’s team, according to Newman is the lack of leadership. This is understandable, especially at the beginning of the season when you have a roster that was put together in a month and a half. It becomes a problem however when a team is nearly halfway through its conference schedule.
“The hardest person to be is the leader because the leader is not liked,” said Newman. “He challenges people to do things that are uncomfortable. They’re the one who steps on somebody’s toes to do the right thing.
Newman added, I think right now they think being a leader is scoring baskets and that will actually backfire because then you’re taking bad shots your teammates are going to trust you less and less because you made a bad play.”
Some of the best leaders in basketball are guys who create shots for their teammates on offense and bring physicality on the defensive side of the ball. This isn’t a knock on any of the current Falcon players for their efforts, but against TAMU Kingsville last Saturday, it was notable that players were taking shots when a shot wasn’t there.
With two games before heading into the back half of the Lone Star Conference this team is at a pivotal moment, sink or swim.
UTPB goes on the road this week starting Thursday against Tarleton State (13-5, 3-4) in Stephenville, followed by a matchup with No. 25 ranked Texas A&M Commerce (14-3, 6-1), Saturday.
“I don’t know if you’ll see an immediate impact with what we’re about to go to on the road,” Newman said. “Tarleton and Commerce are two of the best teams in the league so our growth might not show right away, but I just want to see as a coach that we are starting to get tougher and moral is starting to pick up.”
Newman’s goal for this team was to be playing their best basketball in March and if this group can turn things around, they’re more than capable of putting together a run, before heading into the conference tournament.
Follow Jaydon on Twitter: @Jaydon Hart