Croup’s Corner – Missing pieces obvious

Written By Josh Croup, Sports Columnist

That team was missing height. That team was missing its old head coach. That team was missing starting experience.

But that team was still finding ways to win. That team showed some promise.

This team, the men’s basketball team that took the court Saturday at Indiana University Southeast, is missing pretty much everything else.

The Point Park team that started the season with 14 players on the roster knew it had a lot of hurdles to overcome. The tallest players were 6-foot-5, and not one player had a full season of starting experience.

The head coach of 27 years was taking a leave of absence, replaced by his longtime assistant with hopes to change the brand of Point Park men’s basketball.

It took a while, but that team found a way to overcome an 0-5 start to go on a 5-2 stretch in November and December. The team really started to shape up, and showed a lot of promising signs.

That team was playing defense and moving the ball. After Thanksgiving break, the players received a new sparkplug via a new and energetic assistant coach. You had to feel good about that team going into winter break.

This team, the team that we are watching now, has been the exact opposite. This team is missing so much, and it’s beyond height and experience at this point.

Suspensions and injuries have dwindled the roster to nine players. Saturday’s lineup was without 51.8 points per game and 121 3-point field goals made on the season.

It’s frustrating and really just sad. There were several uncertainties heading into this season, but it really did look like that team was going to end up as one of the tops in the River States Conference (RSC).

Saturday magnified all of the missing pieces against one of the top teams in the RSC, IU Southeast.

Sa’iid Allen remains out indefinitely due to academics. The senior guard led the Pioneers with 16.5 points per game and 39 made 3-pointers.

Kenny Strong, a senior guard and forward, was third on the team in scoring at 13.3 points per game. He will not return this season due to academics.

Gavin Rajahpillay has emerged as a solid all-around player at guard for the Pioneers. His 14.1 points per game had to sit on the bench Saturday due to injury.

Art Christian, a senior guard and forward who has made a career as a sixth man off the bench, missed Saturday due to an injury. He averages 7.9 points per game and 3.8 rebounds per game.

Combine all of the injuries and suspensions with the previous troubles, and you have a team that is completely different than the team that started the 2016-17 campaign.

Point Park has dropped to 6-13 and 4-6 in the RSC. The Pioneers have lost seven of their last eight games, including each of their last four.

The men’s program has struggled on the road for years, and this year has been no different. After a pair of losses this weekend at Brescia and IU Southeast, Point Park is now 1-10 on the road this year. Its only win was a 75-72 win at Penn State-Fayette in November, the first win of the season.

Luckily, the next five games for this team are at home. Four of those games are in conference play against opponents with a combined 21-15 record.

But after that, Point Park plays its remaining four games on the road, with three games against RSC opponents.

There’s a real chance that this team will miss the RSC Tournament.

The Pioneers are on the outside looking in right now in the RSC East as the No. 5 team in the division. The top four teams from each division make it into the single-elimination tournament, and the others have to watch from home.

This team has to figure out ways to win just like the team that strung together four straight wins in the fall semester, albeit with a different starting lineup.

If not, this team will have a long offseason ahead.