Finding consistent offensive production has been a problem for the UW-Parkside men’s basketball team this season.
For one night, at least, the Rangers’ offense ran how head coach Luke Reigel and his staff have wanted it to.
Of course, it helps to have the players you need on the floor actually in uniform.
With pretty much its whole roster available for the first time this season, Parkside got offensive contributions from a number of players Thursday night in an 83-76 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference road win over Purdue Northwest in Hammond, Ind., snapping a three-game losing streak overall and a three-game road losing streak, as well.
The Rangers, who improved to 6-8 overall and 3-4 in the GLIAC, shot 50.8% (32-of-63) from the field, scored about 13 points above its season average and, probably most importantly, had four players score in double figures.
“For the first time basically all year, we had 15 of our 16 guys at practice all week,” Reigel said in a phone interview after the game. “And so we had three good practices, found some rhythm, and it carried over to tonight’s game. It’s nice to go on the road, snap a little bit of a road losing streak.
“We had a lot of guys contribute. That’s how any team’s successful. You just can’t have one or two guys carry you.”
Big game for Bello
Freshman guard Rasheed Bello was inserted into the starting lineup and had a big game to lead Parkside, finishing with a season-high 20 points in just 26 minutes. He shot 8-of-16 from the field, including 4-of-9 from 3-point range, and also added five rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block.
Bello’s big night helped take some of the backcourt load off Parkside sixth-year senior guard Tray Croft, who’s fourth in the GLIAC at 18.9 points per game. He scored 15 on Thursday night and also had six rebounds, six assists and two steals, but Bello’s performance eased some of the heavy load that Croft’s been carrying all season.
“He puts in a ton of work before and after practice,” Reigel said of Bello. “He’s improved as the season has gone on. He has a ton of potential.
“Tonight, he played very well on both ends of the floor, and we needed it. We slipped him into the starting lineup. He does take a little bit of the workload off Tray, especially on the defensive end, so that’s good, too.”
And there were plenty more contributors for the Rangers on Thursday.
Redshirt freshman forward Colin O’Rourke, who was out for Parkside’s two losses in Upper Michigan last weekend and has struggled shooting the ball this season after being named the GLIAC Freshman of the Year last season, scored 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting in 27 minutes.
Redshirt junior forward Brandon Hau, in his third game back after missing Parkside’s first 11 with a foot injury, totaled 12 points, six boards and three assists in 24 minutes off the bench, redshirt freshman forward Jamir Simpson added eight points and redshirt freshman forwards Jacksun Hamilton and Nick Brown combined for 10 points and eight rebounds.
“It was good to have Colin back for the first time in a long time,” Reigel said. “Jacksun Hamilton and Nick Brown gave us energy. They might not have big numbers, but they gave us energy. And then Brandon Hau played very well off the bench.
“Small steps, right? For us to score 83 after what we did offensively last weekend (53 points in both games) was a positive sign. Now hopefully we can build on this.”
Parkside will have that chance against the same team it played Thursday, as the Rangers host Purdue Northwest at 3 p.m. Saturday at the De Simone Arena in a game that was originally scheduled for Jan. 1 but was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols.
And even though the Pride dropped to 3-12 overall and 0-7 in the GLIAC and have lost eight straight games, they have three players averaging in double figures scoring and four more just below that number.
Purdue Northwest, led by junior wing Anthony Barnard’s game-high 23 points, certainly gave Parkside’s defense fits in the first half Thursday, as the Pride shot 57.7% in the opening 20 minutes and trailed by just one at halftime, 42-41, and only because Croft made a layup in the final seconds of the first half.
But the Rangers limited the Pride to 41.2% shooting in the second half, using a 5-0 run to gain the lead for good after the game was tied 60-60 with 8 minutes, 30 seconds left.
“We’re fortunate to get the win, because on the road you have to come right out of the gates and play well defensively, and the last two games we haven’t,” Reigel said. “But we did respond in the second half. We played outstanding defense in the second half.”
Now Parkside will have the challenge of beating the same team twice in a row, something the Rangers found hard to accomplish last season when the GLIAC fashioned a schedule featuring two-game weekend series to limit travel due to the pandemic. In eight two-game series last season, Parkside notched one sweep, was swept once and split six times.
“Hopefully we can learn from last year, because we know how difficult it was to sweep a weekend, playing the same team twice,” Reigel said. “It just isn’t easy to win both games. So hopefully we can take the lessons we learned from last year and get a win at home on Saturday.”
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