Looking to erase the memory of last season, the men’s basketball team sent the home crowd home with a smile and a 72-66 victory against the Centenary Gents in Saturday night’s season opener at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum. Coming off a disappointing 2005-06 campaign that saw the Frogs go 6-25, the team set the tone on offense with five players scoring in double figures and on defense by holding the Gents to 37% shooting.
The Frogs worked five new players into Saturday’s rotation including three players who transferred to TCU-sophomore forward Kevin Langford, junior forward Alvardo Parker and junior guard Ryan Wall. Langford and Parker combined for 28 points and 14 rebounds to go along with Wall’s 10 points off the bench. Parker also finished with five blocks and a thunderous dunk that brought fans to their feet.
Langford, who transferred from the University of California at Berkeley and is a Fort Worth native, said he can bring a good inside presence to this year’s team.
“It felt good to get back out there,” Langford said. “I was really anxious. I had most of my family there.”
Junior forward Blake Adams, who finished with 13 points off the bench, said that the younger players were a little nervous at first, but settled down once the game got going.
“I’m happy we have more scoring,” said Adams of the new additions. “They came from decent programs and I played against them in high school, so I know the type of players they are.”
Head coach Neil Dougherty said he was proud of his team for being able to close out a game in which the tempo favored Centenary.
“I don’t want to play in a game where there’s 60 fouls called,” Dougherty said. “It doesn’t bode well for a transition (offense) team.”
At the end of the first half, returning starters Brent Hackett and Neiman Owens provided easy buckets and a couple of three-pointers to give the Frogs a 32-31 halftime lead. The junior guards did a little bit of everything as Hackett scored 13 points, while Owens pulled down six rebounds.
The second half featured an increase in physical play from both teams, as well as Centenary moving to a 3-2 zone defense in attempt to stop the Frogs inside-outside game.
“We basically just kept running our same zone offense,” Langford said. “It was there every time; we just couldn’t execute.”
After a turnaround jumper by Langford put the Frogs up five with four minutes to go, a couple of turnovers in a twenty-second span cut the lead back to one. Dougherty said the experience the team has in this type of a game allowed them to close it out.
“Last year, we were in 20-plus of these type of games and didn’t win them,” Dougherty said. “Remembering what we went through last year helps us in situations like this.”
After the game, Dougherty said he constantly reminds his players of one of the lessons he learned while playing for current Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski during his playing days at Army.
“You forget about the past unless it helps you with your future,” Dougherty said. “Each time we can win and play well, it will separate us from last year.”
The Frogs’ next game will be Tuesday as they host Stephen F. Austin at 7 p.m. at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum.