Griffins overcome injuries for a second win

Head coach Tony Morocco’s Griffins, again riddled by injuries, fought their way to a second straight victory Feb. 13 at the McKenna Center over a feisty Ohio Valley (OVU) team, 64-57.

By Sean Maiolo

Staff Writer

Head coach Tony Morocco’s Griffins, again riddled by injuries, fought their way to a second straight victory Feb. 13 at the McKenna Center over a feisty Ohio Valley (OVU) team, 64-57.

Freshman guard Justin McCoy paced Seton Hill (SHU) with 19 points despite missing five of nine from the charity stripe, while sophomore forward Ozren Bjelogrlic chipped in 15 points, making all nine of his free throws. Senior forward/center Cody Boone led the defensive effort with 15 boards and three blocks.

SHU shot only 39.3 percent from the field while the two clubs combined to convert only four of 24 total three pointers.

Sophomore guard Chris Giles, the Griffins’ leading scorer, only managed five points in 23 minutes before fouling out with 5:25 left in the game. Coach Morocco attributed his poor play to another unfortunate injury.

“We’ve got a serious problem with him. He’s 30 percent, if that,” he said. “He’s a big part of our offense, but he canít do it. His back’s gone.”

“You’re going to have injuries,” added assistant coach Luke Crump. “You’re going to have things pop up and that’s discouraging, but you’ve got to take it and continue to play through it. We run on the philosophy that there are no excuses.”

Freshman guard Tonio Fulena, himself out with a back injury, expressed his own injury frustrations.

“It’s the first time Iíve ever missed a game,” he said. “It takes toll on you because you’re used to being out there and competing and it wears on you.”

With the slew of injuries, having guys like McCoy and Bjelogrlic step up was huge in propelling the team. Despite leading the team in scoring, McCoy still felt like he left a few points out there.

“I was thinking about it too much,” McCoy said of his missed free throws. “It was more a mental thing.”

“[McCoy] hits shots when he doesnít have to think about it,” Crump added.
Crump asserted that the mental aspect of the game was hindering not only McCoy, but the team in general.

“I think our kids, top to bottom, their heads were somewhere else,” he said of the team missing its first seven field goal attempts. “I think they thought that they could just show up and win this game and you don’t do that. In this conference, you just donít show up and get a win.”

“Mental, mental mental,” Morocco reiterated. “[We had] a lack of good mental concentration and commitment.”

The Griffins seemed to snatch the momentum just prior to halftime, scoring four points in the final minute including a buzzer beating 19 footer by senior guard Emmanuel Jackson. However, OVU employed a full court press to start the second half which held the Griffins to only two points in the first five minutes.

“We did not attack it,” Morocco explained. “Guys were trying to dribble the ball individually and got away from our game plan. The other team [took us] to task on that.”
After stabilizing their lead, the Griffins essentially traded baskets with OVU for much of the second half until OVU eventually resorted to fouling to preserve time. That was when Bjelogrlic, called Ozzie by his teammates and coaches, iced the game.

“Ozzie’s been shooting the ball real well,” said Crump. “I think he’s peaking at the right time. His confidence just keeps getting better every game.”

Morocco said while the game was far from perfect, his team managed to come out on top at a crucial point in the season to even up their conference record to 8-8.

“We won. Thatís what I can take out of it,” he said. “We were fortunate to win, but that happens sometimes. Right now, we need some rest and we need a healthy Giles.”

He later added that the teamís work is far from finished, especially if they want to make an impact this postseason, and there are several areas for improvement.

“Free throws, rebounding and solid ball defense wins championships and we were suspect in those,” he said. “The future is the finish line.”

Morocco, men’s basketball program, win 100th game
A February 1 win at Pitt-Johnstown was more than a streak breaker for the Griffins, who had previously dropped five straight. The win also marked the 100th victory for head coach Tony Morocco and the SHU men’s basketball program.

“It’s a milestone for the program,” Morocco said of the historic victory. “I didn’t want to tell anybody it was coming up. I just wanted it to happen. It was a sense of satisfaction because every program has obstacles and every program has ups and downs.”