The struggling for the Delta State University Statesmen continued this past week in Gulf South Conference men’s basketball action.
The Statesmen lost to the Christian Brothers Buccaneers 87-77 Thursday in Memphis, Tenn. and lost to the Union University Bulldogs 74-67 Saturday in Jackson, Tenn. The Statesmen fell to 8-15 with a 4-11 mark in the GSC.
Freshman Malik Cartwright has steadily gotten better. He scored 20 points with 11 rebounds against Christian Brothers and had 18 points with 13 rebounds against Union. Cartwright has recorded four consecutive double-doubles.
“We’re continuing to try to get better,” DSU head coach Mike Nienaber said. “The most positive thing that’s happened over the last three or four week is the emergence of Malik. When you’re running a Princeton like offense, that’s the position that’s the most important and most difficult to fill. The signs are good that we’ve figured it out. We’ve filled, and the signs are good that we’ve done it with a freshman. You’ve got to fill good about having him in the middle of this the next three seasons and the rest of this year. That’s a really positive thing.
“The CBU game was frustrating because I felt that was one of the few games this year that I thought our defense just laid down. I didn’t think we played very well. Saturday at Union, we did what we’ve often done. We got off to a slow start and go behind, but we battled and I thought our defense was pretty good there. We’re just continuing to try and get better. There are time where we’re showing those signs.”
Delta State has had a tough row to hoe over the last several weeks. After beating West Georgia on Jan. 4 at the Walter Sillers Coliseum, the Statesmen have gone 1-9 over their last 10 games. They’ve had some close loses as three of those loses were two points or less with two other loses fewer than 10 points.
During these last 10 games, opponents have recorded 164 assists and turned the ball over just 93 times, while the Statesmen have recorded 134 assists and turned it over 128 times. For the year, DSU has turned the ball over 317 times, while opponents have turned it over just 265 times. DSU has shot 43.8 percent from the floor, while opponents are shooting 45.5 percent.
Despite the struggles on the team, Nienaber felt that team has done a good job of staying in the right frame of mind.
“This biggest plus is we’re trying to keep the focus on that we’re building,” Nienaber said. “You’ve got to take it from two sides. The thing I keep saying to the younger guys and the core of our team is we’re trying to get better. We want to win as many as we can right now. You just want to have those wins as much as you can. I think we do have several games coming up that can be won, but our number one focus is getting better for the future.”
DSU will host West Florida Thursday and Valdosta State University Saturday at the Walter Sillers Coliseum. Thursday’s game is set for 7:30 p.m. and Saturday’s game is set for 4 p.m.
Notes: Cartwright earned GSC Freshman of the Week honors for a second consecutive week.