The Castleton men’s basketball team has hit its stride. After beginning the season 4-7, things seemed to be going downhill.
Since returning from the holiday break, however, the Spartans have won six of their last eight games, extending their record to 10-9.
In this time span, the Spartans have defeated Lyndon State, Rivier, Johnson State, Maine Farmington, Maine Maritime and Thomas College, while suffering their only losses to Husson and New England College.
The break must have allowed the Spartans to take a step back and gain a fresh perspective, and possibly a new attitude. According to junior guard Jordan Nelson, many of the guys on the team came back with a better, more positive mindset.
“It definitely gave us all some time to really step back and recognize the steps we needed to take to string some wins together,” Nelson said. “We realized it all starts on the defensive end.”
Nelson is right. The real story here has been Castleton’s defense. Before the break, the team was allowing an average of 80 points per game. Since then, they have allowed an average of just 63 points per game.
But what are they doing differently to keep these teams in check?
“We’re playing a lot more man than we were earlier in the season,” said head coach Paul Culpo. “We’re really mixing it up, playing a combination of zone and man, but we’ve definitely been pressing a lot less because that wasn’t working for us.”
The crazy thing is, the Spartans were trailing at the half in all but two of their wins in this recent hot streak of theirs. Yet Culpo insists they didn’t make very many halftime adjustments.
“I think we’ve just competed better in the second half. We really just wore them down, I think.” he said. “So it’s a credit to our guys for sticking with it.”
The Spartans have also been winning despite some adversity, having lost key players to injuries and bad grades. The team has recently lost Nathaniel Kingsley, Ben Mrowka, and Edmund Fitzgerald for academic reasons, and all players that were important for the Spartans.
“It has definitely been challenging,” said Culpo, “But our philosophy has been next man up through all of this, which is all we can really do. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves, and we know other teams aren’t going to so we’ve just got to put forth our best effort with what we’ve got. It’s a credit to our guys because they’re all stepping up.”