Texas Wesleyan University’s bid to win the Sooner Athletic Conference tournament ended Friday.
The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma defeated Wesleyan 80-68 in the SAC semifinal tournament game at Oklahoma City University’s Abe Lemons Arena.
The Rams’ field goal percentage rose from 29.41 percent in the first quarter to 48.39 percent in the second, but the team was no match for the Drovers’ 54.55 in the first quarter and 53.85 in the second, according to ramsports.net.
Since the Rams are the regular-season SAC champions, they still qualify for the upcoming NAIA national tournament, which be held in Kansas City from March 15 to March 21.
Senior criminal justice major Ryan Harris, who was Wesleyan’s highest scorer with 16 points, said Saturday that the Rams’ loss was mainly due to simply being outplayed.
“We really only played when we had a sense of urgency down the stretch of the game, but other than that, they was a great team, and they just outplayed us,” Harris said.
Despite the loss, Harris has a positive outlook on the future.
“We still have more basketball to play, we have another opportunity for games,” he said. “We have another opportunity to do what we do, we [just] take it day by day, and the great thing is we have 10 days before we go to nationals, so we get to regroup and get everything back on track – we’re headed to Kansas City strong.”
In preparation for nationals, Harris said he’ll keep himself in shape and be ready to go for when “[his] number’s called.” He also said that if Wesleyan were to replay USAO, the Rams would be prepared.
“[I do] my part of what the team needs me to do – I got to stay consistent in myself, stay in the gym to keep my game sharp, and just be ready to go when my number’s called,” he said. “[If] we get another opportunity [against USAO], I can promise you, we’ll all be ready – it’s just two teams really wanting to win.”
Najeal Young, another criminal justice major, was the only player to get a double-double Friday night, providing 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Rams, according to ramsports.net.
Young believes Wesleyan’s biggest flaw against USAO was their scoring and defending.
“We didn’t defend at a higher level and we didn’t make shots at a higher level,” Young said Sunday. “And when you don’t do, at a higher level, one of those things, it’s hard to win games. It’s not just against USAO, if we would’ve did that against SAGU (Southwestern Assemblies of God University) or Oklahoma City, or Wayland (Wayland Baptist University) – any one of our [losses] in the conference, [we would’ve won].”
Young said that USAO had two players doing significant “damage” against Wesleyan on Friday night, referencing Taran Buie, who dropped a three on the first possession and ultimately brought the Drovers 22 points, and Imani Edwards, who would lead everyone in individual points with 29, according to ramsports.net.
“There are two guys that scored the ball well, and we know they scored the ball well [because] it was the same two guys doing damage against us. We knew who they guys was, we just couldn’t stop them,” he said.
Like Harris, Young believes if the Rams were to encounter the Drovers once again, things would go differently.
“We got ten days to still prepare for nationals, and I still think we’re a national champion team as long as we stick to our principals and do what we do best, I don’t think there are a lot of teams in the country better than us,” Young said. “Individually, I’m trying to [stay] healthy. Make sure that my body is at full strength as possible. And then, as a team, we’re going to continue to do the things that we’ve been doing. We’ve had a couple of challenges all season, and we’ve had to bounce back from those challenges, so I don’t see us taking this challenge no different.”
Like the players, head coach Brennen Shingleton has his head up for what awaits the Rams at Kansas City.
“We are excited about the opportunity to continue to play and go after another goal of ours,” Shingleton wrote in an email. “This team is always challenged with new obstacles and we have worked really hard all [year] to be in the position we are in! We will get back to work this week, have a great week of practice, weights and school before leaving for Kansas City. I’ve challenged this team to try to be its best and I have no doubt they will do that!”