Justin Chapman | Echo
The hot start for the Taylor men's basketball team continues. The Trojans defeated No. 16 Bethel on Nov. 22 in overtime and Spring Arbor on Tuesday. Both wins improved the Trojans' record to 9-0 overall and 2-0 in the Crossroads League.
For the first time this season, the Trojans propelled into the NAIA national rankings at No. 12. Sophomore guard Evan Crowe was named the Crossroads League Player of the week two weeks in a row.
In the contest against Bethel, the game was forced to overtime after the Trojans erased an 86-80 deficit to even the score at 86-86. In overtime, the Trojans outscored the Bethel Pilots 19-11 to wrap up a 105-97 victory.
"Bethel is a high octane team; they play that way," Head coach Josh Andrews said. "A lot of possessions in that game. We're okay with that because we've got good depth and we can really score. So it became kind of a scoring match."
Andrews noted Bethel made a lot of tough shots but Taylor was able to make shots of their own. Despite the extended, high-scoring game, the Trojans endured to pull off a big win for the program.
In Tuesday's matchup against Spring Arbor, the Trojans pounced on the Cougars early to earn a 31-17 lead. The Cougars bounced back to take a 43-42 lead in the second half. They never led again, and Taylor closed the game at 68-66.
"We got away from our best version of our team in stretches last night where we played maybe a little tense," Andrews said. "(We) just didn't play as intelligently as (we) can play. And I credit Spring Arbor; they're just a gritty team."
Andrews mentioned this game was strategically distinct from the Bethel game. The Spring Arbor contest consisted of sluggish periods for the team compared to the fast-paced game against Bethel. The Trojans faced an ugly game, but they found a way to win.
Despite opening the season up with nine straight wins for the first time since 1984, the Trojans must remain focused if they want to continue the early success of this season.
"We like winning, but the focus isn't just on winning," Junior guard Tim Fleming said. "A lot of the focus is on getting better every day. While the result is nice, 9-0, we just want to get better and better and better so at the end of the season we're playing the best basketball that we can play."
The men's basketball team proves their accomplishments in both their record and their statistics. On average, the team scores 88.8 points per game, while their opponents average 70.8. Taylor shoots 49.4 percent from the field, including 41.6 percent from three-point range.
In fact, offensive rebounds and total rebounds are the only categories Taylor are not beating their opponents in. Fleming believes these stats will make teams want to play their best against Taylor.
"Now it gets harder," Fleming said. "So now we have a target on our back. And now every team is giving us their best game. It definitely is more important to stay on our toes and be more urgent."
Andrews noted how tough the Crossroads League is, as well as the competition within it. He said his team is mature to know that any game they can get beaten.
The Trojans' next game will be against Mount Vernon Nazarene tomorrow. After the game versus Mount Vernon Nazarene, the Trojans will take on Saint Francis. That will be their last conference game until Jan. 3 when they play Huntington. Tomorrow's tipoff is set for 3 p.m.
"Photograph by Fayth Glock"