In a season full of ups and downs, the Big Red wrapped up the 2018-2019 season on a high note.
A 95-94 overtime road victory over the Ohio Wesleyan Battling Bishops on Saturday, February 16 was a fitting end to a season full of close games for the Big Red.
Denison used an early 14-0 run in the first five minutes after falling behind 0-3 to pull ahead and maintained at least a share of the lead for the rest of regulation. Jack Coulter ‘20 was finding space from behind the arc and had six of his 25 points during the run on two three-point field goals.
Coulter shot 8-12 for the game including 7-10 from three-point range to go along with three assists. Coulter comments on his hot shooting performance, something he is certainly no stranger to.
“I think individually for me it is important to continue to work to expand my game. Our league, [the NCAC] is one of the best [conferences] across the country and every team scouts extremely well so it is important to add elements to my game that keep the defense on their toes. Besides that, I feel very comfortable with the offense we run,” said Coulter.
Matt Doyle ‘19 was special in what was his final game in a Denison jersey. As he did all season long, Doyle paced the offense for the Big Red and was a major reason for their success on the offensive end in the team’s final game. Doyle finished the night with 26 points on 10-20 shooting from the field, nine assists and five rebounds. Doyle reflects on the pressure he felt on a nightly basis being the team’s number one scoring option.
“There was definitely a little bit of pressure with being a veteran on a young team and having the ability to score, I trusted my teammates to get me the ball in the right spots and always have great spacing on offense. The driving lanes are a lot bigger with Jack Coulter in the corner because they can’t really help off of him,” said Doyle.
Doyle and Coulter may have carried the bulk of the load offensively on Saturday, but this really was a team win. Other major contributors included Jake Livingston ‘21 with 15 points (7-10 FG) and eight rebounds and Conor Fenton ‘21 with 7 points (3-5 FG) and 15 rebounds.
Although the Big Red came out on top on Saturday, they definitely underachieved by the program’s standards on the year, finishing with a final mark of 7-17 (4-14 NCAC).
There were still a number of bright spots on the season for the Big Red, however, including a win in Atlanta over Oswego State (who finished the season 22-5) and a road win over the eventual NCAC champions, the Wittenberg Tigers.
In what was a rebuilding year, Coach Bob Ghiloni boils down the dynamic of this year’s team.
“If you came into practice, you would be surprised at how much enthusiasm there was, how hard we were working. We were young, we worked hard but we couldn’t finish.
We couldn’t finish plays.
There were so many times where we would do everything right on defense and not come up with the rebound. There were so many times on offense where we would do everything right and just not put the ball in the basket”, said Ghiloni.
There can always be positive takeaways, and Ghiloni certainly recognizes that in the wake of a difficult season. He attributes this team’s never-quit mentality to his four seniors: Doyle, Claude Chandonnet, Jack Lambert and the team’s manager, Cameron Moore. “It would have been really easy for these seniors to pack it in and give up on the team,” said Ghiloni.
They did anything but that. Doyle emerged as a leader on and off the court from the very beginning of the season and Chandonnet did anything the team asked him to do. Together, along with Lambert and Moore, this group led by example and really left their mark on the program.
Ghiloni speaks specifically to what Lambert meant to the team: “Jack Lambert is the best teammate we have ever had in this program. He’s a guy who barely gets any playing time but gives his all in practice every single day to make his teammates better.”
There may have been no NCAC Tournament for this year’s team, but that does not mean it was a lost season by any means. Tons of underclassmen were thrown into action and gained valuable experience going head-to-head with the conference’s best all season long.
Coulter is one of many of this season’s players who will be returning next season with high expectations.
“Every single day, every guy came in and worked hard to get better and at the end of the day that’s really all you can ask for. With that approach, I know we will be much better in the future and I know that this year helped us tremendously even if the record doesn’t show that,” said Coulter.