Putting the ‘home’ in homestretch

Fred McCormick

Playing eight of its last nine games on the road, Warren Wilson Owls men’s basketball team has gone through the toughest part of its schedule the last few weeks.

But the Owls, returning to DeVries Gymnasium on Thursday, Jan. 21, are poised to finish the regular season strong and make a return to the postseason.

Coming off a four-team tournament hosted by Johnson & Wales University-Charlotte, Warren Wilson plays five of its remaining nine games at home. Fans of the program can expect to see an intensified defense, according to head coach Anthony Barringer.

“Our biggest focus all year has been on the defensive end of the ball,” he said. “We’re looking at increasing what I call ‘kills.’ You get three defensive stops in a row, and that is a kill. Our goal for each game is seven kills. Statistics say that 95 percent of the time that a team gets seven kills they win the ball game.”

The defensive effort against Anderson, an NCAA Division II school, was particularly remarkable. The visiting Owls managed to hold the Trojans to 56 points and lost by only three.

“That’s not even a game that we’re supposed to win on paper,” Barringer said. “But we went on the road and worked our tails off and just came up on the wrong side.”

The Owls suffered another tough loss to Johnson & Wales on Jan. 13 in a match-up that saw Warren Wilson, ranked ninth at the time, fall 84-83 to the Wildcats.

Now the Owls will concentrate on defending their home floor, something they have done half of the time this year. And the next four weeks will give them an opportunity rehash some some earlier match-ups. In its first contest of the season, Warren Wilson defeated Piedmont International University in decisive fashion, 82-68. The Owls welcome the PIU Bruins on Jan. 21 before traveling to Greenville for a rematch with Bob Jones University, who they defeated 109-104 in an overtime thriller at home in December.

Rematches against Johnson & Wales and Columbia University will likely be the February highlights for the Owls, who also travel to Montreat to take on the Cavaliers for a second time this season.

But if Warren Wilson hopes to qualify for the postseason, “we’ve got to win, flat out,” Barringer said. “We just have to win games.”