The Bates men’s basketball team had a pair of CBB matchups at home in Alumni Gym on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 against Colby and Bowdoin, respectively. Mid-season conference games tend to draw fairly large crowds, and this weekend was certainly no exception.
Alumni Gym is known around the NESCAC as an especially difficult place to play as an opposing team. The gym is very small, so it gets very loud, and the bleachers extend within inches of the sidelines. The incredibly close proximity of the fans to the players can be very distracting, especially during the second half when the opposing team is going towards the basket where the Bates student section is, providing an additional challenge for teams playing in Lewiston.
The game against Colby on Friday night had an especially raucous crowd, making it all the more memorable for the seniors during their final home weekend. In this game, the Bobcats got out to a very nice start, leading for much of the first half and heading into the locker room at halftime trailing by just a point against the no. 5 nationally-ranked Mules.
The second half was a bit of a different story as Colby came out very hot and held a commanding lead for most of the way. The Mules shot 67% from the floor in the second half compared to just 45% in the first half, and Bates simply couldn’t keep up.
The Bobcats were led in the scoring column by rookie Stephon Baxter ’23 who had 21 points, followed by Jeff Spellman ’20 with 18, Kody Greenhalgh ’20 with 13, and Nick Gilpin ’20 with ten. It was a well-played game in the end, but the Mules hit more big shots, and they were able to remain undefeated heading into Saturday.
In their afternoon game the next day, Bates hosted Bowdoin in a matchup of two teams near the bottom of the conference standings. The Polar Bears took an early lead in this one and never looked back, fending off a late run by the Bobcats who were able to cut the lead to two points with just a few minutes remaining.
David Reynolds was the difference-maker in this game for Bowdoin, netting 29 points and hitting a few big shots late in the game. He was the go-to guy for the Polar Bears, and Bates really had no answer.
The scoring in this one was a bit more evenly spread, with Tom Coyne ’20 and Omar Sarr ’23 each dropping 14 points, while Spellman had 12, Baxter had nine, and Gilpin had eight. Sarr also had a monster day on the boards, hauling in 13 rebounds, four of which were on the offensive end.
This was definitely not the weekend that Bates was hoping for, but the season is a long way from over. The top eight teams in the NESCAC qualify for the conference tournament and the Bobcats are currently tied for seventh in the league at 2-4 in conference play, but they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over both Wesleyan and Hamilton.
The team’s last four conference games are at Conn College and Trinity next weekend, then at Williams and Middlebury the weekend after. Conn College is 0-6 in conference play and 3-16 overall, so this is a game that Bates really needs to win. Trinity, Williams, and Middlebury are all just above the Bobcats in the conference standings, so these ones will be particularly challenging, and they’re all on the road.
Realistically, two wins in their last four games should secure them a berth in the NESCAC Tournament, though likely as the seventh or eight seed. If they can somehow steal three or even all four of these matchups in the final stretch then Bates would be looking mighty good heading into postseason play as a higher seed.
They may not have gotten what they wanted this weekend, but there’s still a long way to go for the Bobcats.