By Danielle Templin
The Viterbo men’s basketball team has been off to a fast start in the Midwest Collegiate Conference this season. At the halfway point in the regular season conference race, the men currently have a 4-2 conference record and an overall record of 13-10.
Last season the V-Hawks struggled, producing an overall record of 11-19 and a 6-12 MCC record, finishing eighth in the conference.
The first conference loss this season for the V-Hawks came Jan. 16 in Oskaloosa, Iowa against top-conference contender, and No. 2 nationally ranked Wiliam Penn University. The V-Hawks dropped their second straight conference game against No. 9 Mount Mercy University in overtime 85-74, also on the road.
Thus far this season the V-Hawks have been led, by junior forward, Cole Lewis, who is averaging 12.3 points per game and 5.9 rebounds per game, both team highs. With a strong supporting cast in the frontcourt, led by juniors Matt Turba and Izac Sheforgen, the V-Hawks look to continue their success in the second half of the conference battle.
Early in the season, the V-Hawks struggled to find their identity as a team.
“We struggled early in the year, partly due to not being as prepared as we should have been,” Sheforgen said. “However, throughout the season we have gotten better and better. We are now starting to recognize our potential and things are starting to click, and we realize that we can compete with any team in our conference on any given night, even on the road.”
Their recent success of the team has been attributed to a variety of circumstances.
“We have not been as successful as we wished to be,” Sheforgen said. “However, our comfort level and depth, along with the ability of people off the bench being able to score has sparked us recently. Everyone on the team wants to be successful and win.”
Along with a balanced attack on offense, the V-Hawks’ defense has been able to put up impressive numbers. With the number one scoring defense in the conference, only allowing 59.8 points per game, the V-Hawks have been able to rely on both ends of the floor to attribute to their success.
Compared to last season, the V-Hawks confidence this season has developed from experience.
“We have been able to be more successful this season because we have more experience,” said senior center, Alex Koeller. “We have had the same core of guys playing together for the last three years, along with having a sense of camaraderie.”
With possibly their toughest second round conference games the remainder of the season at home, against William Penn University and Mount Mercy University, the V-Hawk men look to be a contender for the top seed in the conference tournament.
The MCC may come down to the final few games of the season, in which the V-Hawk men look to make a few changes.
“We have to be prepared to make changes when they arise because the second time around in conference, teams know our strengths and our offense, along with how to defend them,” Sheforgen said.
Sheforgen also attributes the team’s balanced scoring attack as a strength in the second half of the race.
“We play together as a team, whereas our competitors are more of individuals,” said Sheforgen. “We have multiple guys that will step into a role because we are such a balanced team.”
Koeller believes for the team to be the top contender at the end of the conference race, the team needs to put together a full game.
“The biggest thing for us is to play a complete 40 minute game,” said Koeller. “We need to finish games, and that is something we have not been able to accomplish the past two games.”
Sheforgen on the other hand, believes establishing the pace of the game early will be the key for additional V-Hawk wins.
“We have to come out and use our home court to our advantage and be the aggressor early to establish a mentality and set a tone for it to be played how we want it to be,” Sheforgen said.
“We were in many close games last year,” said Sheforgen. “We have figured out ways to finish the games, whereas last year we could never finish them.”
With only seven games left in the regular season, the V-Hawks are looking to remain unbeaten and vie for a top seed in the conference tournament.