The Red Devil men’s basketball team started the season off strong on Wednesday, recording a 96-67 win over Ottawa’s JV squad.
The win wasn’t as easy as the score looks. The early parts of the game were a real struggle for Allen County, forced to play catch-up to a Braves team that just would not miss.
“The first 10 minutes I wasn’t too happy with how we were playing,” head coach Andy Shaw said. “We had a lot of careless turnovers. We weren’t converting at the rim, we weren’t being aggressive at the rim. Nothing seemed to be going right.”
Come midway through the first half, though, and the Red Devils turned it on, turning a deficit into a 14-point halftime lead.
Allen County continued to dominate into the second half and almost got their lead up to 40 before clearing the bench and allowing Ottawa to gain some ground near the end of the game.
Shaw noted that while he was unhappy with some of the struggles early in the game, it was to be expected as only three Red Devils return from last season’s roster.
“It’s the first college game for a lot of guys and it was our first real game together since we only have three guys from last season,” Shaw said. “I was expecting a little bit of a rocky start but I’m hoping that’s something we can get sorted out real soon. But we got the win and everybody got to play so now we move on.”
With so many new faces to contend with, Shaw is looking towards returners like starting and newcomers like sophomore transfer forward Jordan Marshall who led the team in scoring on Wednesday with 27 points to step up and show some leadership this season.
“We need someone to step up and be a vocal leader for this team,” Shaw said. “We’ve got guys that are trying to do it and they’re still feeling their way through the early part of the season but our three returners that played last year didn’t play a whole lot of minutes but now we’re looking for them to continue to get better. They know the system, nothing’s really changed from this year to last year.”
Meanwhile, he hopes freshmen guards Jamaal Clifton and Darius Love continue to improve and solidify their spot in the starting lineup.
As far as team chemistry goes, that’s something that is still coming along. More games and minutes together on the court will help bring that together.
“We’ve still have to find out about our continuity,” Shaw said. “Who plays well together and what lineups work together and what lineups don’t. Really it’s just about getting to know each other because a lot of them just met three months ago so they’re still learning each other and learning how to play with one and other.”
Though there’s still much to learn about the potential of this team, Shaw’s expectations are set: a top-seven finish in the conference and the home regional playoff game that comes with that. Allen County was picked 10th in the preseason KJCCC coaches poll.
The Red Devils will host the Red Devil Classic over the weekend where they’ll take on Labette County on Friday and Northern Oklahoma College-Tonkawa on Saturday. Tip-off for both games is at 7 p.m.