Both the men’s and women’s basketball team saw their playoff journey end this past weekend, concluding a season that tested not only the players, but also the coaches.
The Lady Tigers began the season with a very young squad, ending the season at a 12-17 overall mark and a 9-13 mark in conference play. The record, while seemingly not ideal, is misleading.
Head Coach Garry Crowder was honest with his opinion on the season.
“We are disappointed with our 7th place finish, but we have lost a lot of close games. We lost two games in overtime (one was a double overtime loss to conference champion Harding).”
Other losses also were close, and when all these are brought into account, the season can be seen as a stepping stone. The squad was a young one, with six of the 13 being freshmen and one transfer sophomore who had minimal experience in NCAA basketball competition.
When Coach Crowder looked back at the close losses mentioned earlier, he was optimistic.
“Those were nine games we had a chance to win in late. We are looking forward to the future,” he said.
That positivity is something that is also obvious, even compared to the last few seasons. The 2014-2015 season brought Coach Crowder’s Lady Tigers a record of 10-17 with a mark of 6-14 in GAC play. The 2015-2016 season brought a small improvement in conference play for the Lady Tigers, with a final record of 7-15 within the conference, accompanied with a 10-18 overall record. Each team looks to improve upon their previous season, and coach Garry Crowder has proven successful in that endeavor thus far.
The Ouachita Tigers men’s basketball team finished the season with a .500 record in both overall competition and conference play. Although they lost early in the GAC competition, the team improved.
Tigers’ Head Coach Dennis Nutt was optimistic about his team, and he was determined to learn from this season.
“Our conference play resulted in some good play for our program. One of those signature wins was over GAC Conference and Tournament champs East Central at home by a score of 79-68. Also, challenging wins against Harding and the Battle of the Ravine games against Henderson State come to mind.”
The Tigers have had some talented players graduate recently, with various graduates playing around the world professionally, so while the record of .500 may not be the best, much like the women’s record, it is somewhat misleading. The team had to find its identity, and it had a hard time getting into a winning streak, winning no more than three games in a row.
Coach Nutt is extremely proud of his team’s performance at the Great American Conference tournament.
“I couldn’t have been more proud of the guys’ attitude in Bartlesville [where the tournament takes place], defeating Southern Nazarene in the quarterfinals and taking on East Central in semifinals. Our team showed tremendous heart battling,” he said. n
While neither team had the fantasy ending to their season they wished for, both teams can use this year as a stepping-stone to improve and become the powerhouse they hope to be.
By Chris DiGiovanni, Sports editor