Texas Wesleyan’s men’s basketball team rose to the top of the Sooner Athletic Conference two weeks ago, an achievement associate head coach Matthew Garnett said is largely due to the players’ effort.
“They just proved that they are willing to work hard every day at practice,” Garnett said. “What you’re seeing this time of year is a product of a lot of things that have gone on all year. At the turn of conference play, we don’t get caught up with where we sit. Coach [Brennen Shingleton] does a great job of taking it game by game; day by day.”
Garnett added that there are other factors in the team’s success.
“We play our best basketball in February and March,” he said. “We’re there now, so the league is just so good top to bottom that you just have to continue to focus on each game one by one. They really care about what they’re doing so, this time of year, we got guys that are going to want to win every time they step on the floor.”
A major high of the Jan. 23 66-64 win over Southwestern Assembly of God University was guard Dion Rogers’ game-winning s hot at the buzzer.
“Dion making that play at the end — it’s a good player making a good play,” Garnett said.
Rogers scored 10 points in the Southwestern game. But he said he was not at his best that night.
“Man, my performance was rough that night,” Rogers said. “I couldn’t throw a rock in the ocean. I was actually kinda emotional after I made that shot. Because, like, I was just frustrated I wasn’t making a shot all game and then I finally got one to go and it was the last one to win the game but – I was just happy in the end.”
Rogers said the game was challenging.
“The difficulty of that game was taking care of the ball,” he said. “Getting rebounds and stuff like that. And, for the offense, keeping the flow, keeping us moving, stuff like that. As a team, I’d say – defensively we were getting stopped from stopping the other team from scoring. As a team, not just individually.”
Senior guard Naiel Smith scored 11 points and had five steals in that game; he also made the pass to Rogers that made the game-winning shot possible, according to ramsports.net
Like Rogers, Smith was humble about his performance that night.
“I had seven turnovers,” Smith said. “It’s obvious I had a horrible game. I was able to hit the three a couple times and I made a big pass to Dion that made that shot, [but] I did pretty bad. But my teammates definitely picked up the slack on my end. And that’s what team is about, man. For real.”
Smith characterized the game as “difficult.”
“I think this was one of the games where the crowds played a big role in it,” he said. “We could barely hear ourselves, barely hear each other, barely hear coach call out plays, and that kind of really wore us out mentally. What kept us in the game – I feel like our defense did. Sometimes they’ll break us down and get buckets but other times we’ll lock down, and stay in, and get big stops. We didn’t give up, basically. We didn’t give up. We knew we had a big task and SAGU wasn’t going to be a light team.”
Rogers said being No. 1 in the conference “felt great.”
“That’s what we’re kind of expected to do, but you know, it just felt good that we actually did it,” he said. “Now we got to maintain it, our job is not done yet. We’re pretty comfortable, but [our job is not done yet].”
“Being number one in SAC – it’s good – tap on the back, but, we still got a lot more to go, man,” he said. “I want a ring, it’s my senior year. Came a long way and I put in a lot and I’m hoping to get out a lot. I won’t be happy until the end of the march, when they say, ‘Texas Wesleyan — the national champions.’”
The Rams play Mid-America Christian University at 8 p.m. Thursday in the Sid Richardson Center.