Despite considerable adversity, Bucky Ball isn’t backing down. After a promising 6-0 start, in which the Bulldogs defeated Texas Southern and Valparaiso in two blowout victories, the Bulldogs now sit at 6-3 after home losses to Louisiana Tech and Tennessee Southern and a road defeat at DePaul University.
These losses were all agonizingly close for Samford, as the combined margin of defeat for all three games was 10 points.
However, Samford defeated Texas Southern by 15 and, more impressively, Valparaiso by 30. The Bulldogs had a balanced effort in both wins. Ques Glover has been playing in top form, with 18 points against Texas Southern, but cooled off for 12 against Valparaiso. Logan Dye and Achor Achor have been beasts on the boards and have helped the Bulldogs establish a much-needed paint presence.
In the game against Louisiana Tech, Samford nearly erased a 17-point deficit but fell short in the final seconds. Glover had 26 points in a starring effort, but it wasn’t enough. Ball control and poor shooting likely led to Samford’s downfall, as the Bulldogs committed 23 turnovers and shot a meager 31% from the 3-point line.
Perhaps the most excruciating loss of the three-game stretch came against Tennessee Southern, an NAIA school that came to the Pete Hanna Center as massive underdogs. Without Glover and Jermaine Marshall, who were injured, the Bulldogs struggled to establish themselves on their home court and shockingly fell to the Firehawks 84-82.
This loss especially is an upset for Samford’s basketball program. NCAA teams like Samford rarely lose games to NAIA competition because NAIA schools have less funding and talent compared to college basketball’s highest level. According to the NAIA’s official website, NCAA schools spend 60% more on athletic funding than NAIA schools.
Finally, Samford lost to DePaul in a heartbreaker in Chicago. The Bulldogs lost in overtime 103-98, as costly turnovers and poor free throw shooting down the stretch by Samford led to the Blue Demons’ victory. Dye had 23 points and seven rebounds, but Glover and Marshall were limited in their returns from injury, as they combined for only 12 points.
Samford’s opponents in nonconference play are tough competitors, with many having NCAA Tournament aspirations. DePaul plays in the Big East Conference, which is full of traditional powerhouse teams. Furthermore, regardless of how Samford plays in nonconference play, the SoCon remains a one-bid league. The only way to make March Madness is a championship victory in the SoCon Tournament.
However, many problems on the court still need to be rectified if Samford wants to continue their early success, including a high turnover rate and poor free throw shooting. However, some problems for the team are growing off the court.
Samford fans are beginning to show concern about the slump but have offered some solutions to the team’s woes.
“I think it’s a little disappointing, but I think we just need to shoot better from the three-point line. We also need more fan support when we get back home,” said Ryan Howard, a Samford junior.
The concern from fans is a welcome sign, because they should expect a championship standard. Samford fans should continue to push the men’s basketball team and other Samford teams to greatness.
While Samford’s basketball losses aren’t necessarily the end of the world, as the Bulldogs are facing injuries and tough competition, there is room for improvement. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Samford’s schedule does not get any easier, as the team will face UCF and Louisiana on the road next week.