Tony Taylor, urged to become more proactive, led the Colonials in shots attempted for the first time in precisely a month. John Kopriva and Ware, who both thrived a week ago against Bradley, combined for just four points. Nemanja Mikic, whose value lies almost entirely in his outside shooting, came off the bench for the first time this season and is 4-for-22 from 3-point range in the last four games.
Different pieces thrive on different nights. Identifying what works in each game might be Lonergan’s greatest challenge.
“I’m not going to give up on this team. Ever since we lost to Syracuse, I’ve gone recruiting every single night,” Lonergan said. “Things we’re trying to establish in our program, everything’s going well except these games. That’s why I started the seniors tonight. I said, ‘At some point, you guys have to come out and play well as a group and kind of set the tone for this team.’”
On the other sideline, Matt Brady could relate. Four years into his tenure at James Madison, he remembers well the work facing a new coach. Identifying strengths and weaknesses. Picking out an optimal lineup. Figuring out how to get players the shots they’re most comfortable with. Simply steering players toward a new way of doing things.
And then there’s the biggest thing of all: Holding it together through rough times.
“Quite frankly, they’ve lost a hard game to Bradley,” Brady said. “This is another hard game tonight. They lost one previously. They’ve lost some close games. That happens. What you hope is your fortunes will change and your guys will stick together. That’s really the big issue. We went through that my first year at JMU. You just have to stick together.”
Still, this is different. Maybe even more daunting than first anticipated. The answers don’t seem to be coming, at least not as quickly as Lonergan would like.
He’s in a foreign situation, ensconced in a long losing streak. But he knows Brady’s advice ultimately is the path out of an agonizing month to date.
“This is as frustrated as I’ve been,” Lonergan said. “I think it has nothing to do with our system, our plays. I think it has to do with guys having to understand the fundamentals of basketball, and we have to do a better job of teaching the game. …
“It’s not about yelling or screaming or motivating them. They know what they can accomplish this year that they haven’t accomplished in the last three or four years here. They have to stick together.”
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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