Men’s basketball drops pair of games after holiday

Photo by Megan Bixler | Point Park Athletics
Junior Asim Pleas searches past a Wilberforce guard during a Dec. 7 home game. Pleas entered the week averaging 11.9 points per game.

Written By Derek Malush

With two straight River State Conference (RSC) losses coming off the holiday break, the Point Park men’s basketball team is now on a four-game losing skid that dates back to early December citing losses to Cincinnati Christian University on Tuesday night 92-82 and coming up short Thursday night at Midway University 91-89.

With juniors Michael Connor and Aaron Barlow out indefinitely due to academics, the Pioneers are searching for some much-needed height in the guard-riddled team. 

“We just didn’t have any size and got dominated on the glass,” head coach Gabe Bubon said about Tuesdays loss to CCU. “We just couldn’t get a rebound.”

Photo by Megan Bixler | Point Park Athletics
Junior Michael Connor drives through the lane in a 73-72 loss against Wilberforce on Dec. 7. Conner is out indefinitely due to academics.

The Pioneers grabbed just five offensive rebounds in the loss to CCU and were outrebounded by a total of 51-35.

Point Park managed to pull the game within five points about midway through the second half, however their 14-point deficit after the first twenty minutes made it difficult to overcome.

“We are competing every night but we just can’t seem to catch a break at the moment,” senior guard Gavin Rajahpillay said. “Losing the guys we did…we again have to find another groove.”

The team was led by junior guard Asim Pleas who had a team-high 21 points on 56 percent shooting from the floor.

Sophomore guard Daniel King helped the scoring load with 20 points of his own as Rajahpillay poured in 17 points to go with his 8 assists.

As the Pioneers traveled to Midway University on Thursday night, Bubon’s roster grew thin as he had only eight active players on the night for their second RSC matchup in a row.

“This game really hurt because we played so well for the size we had but we just couldn’t get it done,” Bubon said.

Point Park was down by just seven points at the halfway mark as they shot 51 percent from the floor and went 5-10 from beyond the arc.

However, it was the hot shooting from Midway in the first half that gave the Eagles the lead as they hit 9 three-pointers and totaled 13 on the evening.

“We need to increase our intensity on defense,” said senior forward Fousseini Konate. “That many three-pointers is just unacceptable and we need to do a better job closing out and rotating on defense.”

The entire second half was played within single-digits. However, Point Park stole the late-game lead on a senior guard Rushan Roberts three-pointer that put the Pioneers up by two points at 88-86 with a minute and a half to go in the game.

The Eagles quickly answered with a three of their own to regain the lead at 89-88.

“We need to finish games a lot better and not be playing from behind so much,” Bubon said.

Rajahpillay was fouled and sent to the free-throw line with 21 seconds to go. He missed the first and drained the second shot leaving Point Park behind on the scoreboard by only one point at 90-89.

After intentionally fouling the Eagles on the ensuing possession, the score stood at 91-89 as Midway hit only one of their two free throws.

After inbounding the ball with ten seconds to go, Rajahpillay put up a last-second three-pointer that came up short, handing the Pioneers their eleventh loss of the season.

“We did everything we could and had a shot to win but we just didn’t get it done,” Bubon said. “Life on the road in conference play is tough so when you get a win you’re really happy with it.”

Point Park returns home for RSC play on Tuesday versus NAIA Division II No. 3-ranked IU East, who currently lead the RSC East Division at 15-2, 4-0 RSC. Tipoff is 7:30 p.m. at the CCAC-Allegheny Physical Education Building.