Even the word thriller is not strong enough to describe the Rams’ game against Eastern Nazarene last Tuesday at the Regan Ridgeway Gym. The 135 spectators who were watching the game from the sidelines certainly got to witness a real “swish” with entertainment until the very end. Sometimes there was complete silence in the gym because people were so focused on the electrifying game that made everyone absolutely euphoric whenever the Rams got a basket. With three minutes left, the score was tied at 80-80 and the atmosphere in the gym was amazing. Unfortunately the Rams’ defense fell apart in the last three minutes of the game and Eastern Nazarene won the game 90-82, despite the fact that the scoreboard showed 90-80 after the game, because the referee forgot to add two points to Suffolk’s score on the board.
Suffolk played a great second half, but the team was struggling in the first half and were 22 points behind at one point. The fact that the Rams came back and were leading 76-75 at the end of the second half shows that the team has a lot of fighting spirit. If the defense had been a little more solid in the first half and the last three minutes of the second half, the Rams would have won this game without any question. Observing the game it looks like the Ram offense is where it needs to be, but the defense needs a little work. Prior to the game Coach Adam Nelson already knew that the key to beat Eastern Nazarene is to defend well and he was absolutely right: “Eastern Nazarene is unbelievably talented. They’ve got pieces at every position, they are athletic, they play fast and they are scary. They are a very dangerous team. So we need to come ready to play and ready to defend them. If we can get up and defend them tonight it will be a great game, but if we let them do what they want, they are going to score a ton of points tonight. We have to control the game.” Suffolk did control big parts of the game, but in the end it was not enough to get a victory.
On the bright side, a great personal achievement was reached during the game as Matt Pepdjonovic got his 1000 career rebound. The talented forward became the second Suffolk player in history to reach both 1000 rebounds as well as 1000 points for the Rams. Now Pepdjonovic has the most rebounds in Suffolk men’s basketball history, an incredible achievement. By the end of the season he is expected to become the all time leading rebounder in the history of the GNAC conference in men’s basketball.
Before the Eastern Nazarene game, Suffolk played in the Roger Williams Tip-Off tournament, in which they had an excellent game against Main, Fort Kent, and a really close tournament final game against the hosts from Roger Williams. Coach Nelson gave his view on the Rams performance in the tournament: “It was an interesting tournament for us. The first night we were able to beat Main, Fort Kent by 21 which definitely surprised us because they are a very good team. We really came to play and we did everything right, we played a very good game. It was a good opener to the season. The guys played well and we defended hard so we are happy with that. The second game against Roger Williams was the championship game in the tournament in front of a tough crowd. We got up seven at the half and we were playing pretty well, but Roger Williams kind of figured it out and really came to play in the second half and we were disappointed, because we didn’t come to play and they kind of put it on us. So we were disappointed to come out [of] there with a split. We played three out of four halves well, but at this level you can’t do that, but we will learn from it and move on.”
After facing some tough opponents, the Rams went on a well-deserved Thanksgiving break. The players got to relax and eat turkey for three days with their families and friends, but then it was back to training on Saturday. On Tuesday, before the Thanksgiving break, Nelson was not concerned about the players eating too much turkey: “They can eat away. We will come back for practice on Saturday and we don’t play until Thursday so we will have five full practices to run the turkey out of them,” Coach Nelson said with a smile on his face. The game on Thursday is against UMASS-Boston. Let’s hope the Rams are well-rested after the break and did not eat too much turkey.