After winning the CAC championship and fighting to the NCAA Sweet 16 in an historic season last year, the men’s basketball team showed no signs of slowing down as the Seahawks upset the highly favored Division II Bowie State Bulldogs in an exhibition game at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. on Nov. 7.
Speaking about the victory, head coach Chris Harney said, “It was exciting. It was a hard fought win against a team that definitely didn’t expect to lose the game… Usually you don’t expect a team that has 12 full scholarships to lose to a team that has none.”
The Seahawks got off to a rough start at the beginning of the game, falling behind by 17 points early in the first half after an 18-1 run by Bowie State. “We were a little rusty…and I guess a lot of that had to do with nerves” said senior forward Calvin Wise. Those nerves were not unfounded. Bowie State is favored to win their conference, the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA), this year “which many feel is the best Division II conference in the country,” Harney said.
The Seahawks were able to pull it together though, coming right back against Bowie State with an 18-4 run of their own to finish the second half trailing by only 4 points. The game was very close for most of the second half, but giving up that massive first half lead had clearly gotten to the Bulldogs. “When it got tight and we took the lead they showed their almost lack of mental toughness. They became unraveled and started yelling at each other,” said Harney.
“[Basketball] is a game of runs. People are going to make a run at you. They’re going to have their run, and then you have to answer with your run,” said Harney. “It’s just going to be a constant back and forth battle of that, and the team that hangs tough is the one that will win.” After both teams exchanged damaging runs in the first half, it was St. Mary’s who gave the final answer, finishing the game on a 16-9 run to win by a score of 82-75.
“In the second half we really played our game,” said Wise. “We’re feeling as confident as ever.”
The team’s leading scorer in the game with 25 points was junior guard Camontae Griffin. A new face on the team, Griffin is a transfer from Division II Shaw University, also a CIAA program. On the Bowie State game Griffin said, “It was a great experience. It was great for the team, confidence-wise. I feel as though we won’t play another team like that, as athletic as them, so I think we should be very good this year.”
The seahawks will see more preseason action at the Penn State-Behrend Tip-Off Tournament this weekend, with their first game friday at 6pm against Nazareth College. “Nazareth won 20+ games last year and went to the [NCAA] tournament, so we’ll get a test right away against a NCAA tournament caliber program,” said Harney. “I think we’ll be ready,” said Griffin. “I feel ready.”
Looking forward to the rest of the season, Harney said, “our schedule this year is one of the toughest I’ve ever seen here. So we’ll be tested early and often, but that’s why you play … I want us to work for everything we get.” Wise said that the team is “really excited to get at it.”
Look for the Seahawks at their first home game, Tuesday Nov. 25 at 7pm against McDaniel College.