The Roger Williams University men’s basketball team just keeps winning these days.
The second-place Hawks continued to add to their successful season on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 4, notching their 11th Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) victory and 17th overall win in a 79-69 verdict on the road versus the Nor’easters of University of New England.
“This team is an entirely different team than any of the three other years,” said senior guard Andrew Wasik. “This team has a chemistry that goes beyond the basketball court. I think the reason we are successful this season is because we all have the mentality that the team comes first. We have really put everything we have into this season and we are seeing the benefits of working hard in the offseason.”
Wasik continued, “The main difference that we have this year compared to all the other years is that this year we have confidence in ourselves and in our teammates. Every time I go out on the court I know I have four other guys that have my back and will run through a brick wall for each other. This trust in each other has led to our success.”
Wasik was one of three Hawks to score in double figures on the night, scoring 19 points. Sophomore guard Austin Coene was an x-factor for the Hawks once again in the matchup, leading the team in scoring for the 18th time this season with 21 points. Junior guard Nick Marini would add 14.
Using a 21-4 run over the final 8:48 of the first half, the Hawks went into halftime with a 38-26 lead. In the second half, it was much more of the same for the Hawks as they used their defense and a balanced offense to keep UNE at bay. The Hawks’ lead would balloon to as much as 16 with 17:31 to go in the second half, a 46-30 score, on a layup by senior forward Josh Syska.
Coming out of a full timeout, a 12-4 UNE run would close the gap to 50-42 with 12:11 to go in the frame. Marini’s 3-pointer would put the Hawks’ lead back to double figures, but a foul by Syska would send UNE to the free throw line, making both, 53-44.
A 3-pointer by Coene would take the Hawks lead back to 12 temporarily, as UNE would answer with a pair of treys of their own, making it 56-50 with 9:11 to play.
The teams would trade baskets over the course of the next few minutes, but a timely Wasik 3-pointer gave the Hawks a comfortable advantage with under two and half minutes to go, forcing UNE to go into foul mode. The Hawks would make five of six at the line and a Coene layup would seal the deal, resulting in a 79-69 final score.
“Tonight’s win was a good win for us, everyone played really well,” said Wasik, who hit five 3-pointers on the day. “Personally, when I play well it’s because my teammates have created an opportunity for me to do so. Hitting five three pointers would not have been possible if the team as a whole didn’t work hard to help get me open. It’s a great feeling when hitting your shots, but it’s important to keep in mind that that the opportunity to shoot comes from the other four people on the court.”
While the Hawks went into the matchup as one of the top teams in the CCC, University of New England went into matchup as the third worst team in the conference. For Marini, he says these games serve as a reminder that no single win will be easy to get.
“We try to approach every game not looking at the opponent’s record,” Marini said. “Every game in our conference is tough, especially the road games. Specifically, today going up to UNE and playing after a three-hour bus ride. We try our best to control the game with our defense and I think today we did a good job of accomplishing that.”