By Will Brown
The Millsaps men’s basketball team and the Millsaps women’s basketball team recently ended their season with losses to Oglethorpe College in the Southern Athletic Association conference tournament.
The SAA men’s basketball tournament was hosted by Centre College in Danville, Kentucky on the weekend of February 23, and all eight teams in the conference participated. The men’s team lost to Oglethorpe by a score of 80-62. She’Chem Grant scored 16 points to lead Millsaps, but the Majors fell behind early, trailing 41-23 at halftime.
Despite the early tournament loss, the men’s team finished their season on a high note. They defeated Birmingham Southern 79-61 on February 17, the senior day for both the men’s and women’s teams. Earlier in the season, they had lost to Birmingham Southern 81-58.
“Birmingham Southern was our first conference game and also our last,” said Head Coach Jimmy Smith. “It showed the improvement we made as a team.”
Smith attributes that improvement to better defense and ball movement.
“We rank first in the conference in field goal percentage defense, and we shot over 50% on offense, and we moved and shared the ball a lot better. We are better utilizing our players’ abilities,” Smith said.
The men’s team finished the season with a record of 9-17, and they finished sixth of eight in the SAA conference. Nine wins is the most the team has had since 2011, and the six conference wins are the most they have had since 2010. Millsaps ranked first in the SAA in field goal defense, and second in the SAA in three-point defense. Out of the 416 Division III schools in the country, Millsaps ranked 15th nationally in three-point defense and 41st nationally in field goal defense.
Guard Sam Kohnke is the only senior on the men’s basketball roster, and most of the team will remain intact next season. Coach Smith believes that the team improved throughout the season and will continue to get better as they gain experience and figure out the best way to play.
“Everything was new this year,” Smith said. “We had a new coaching staff and players, and it took us a while to figure out how we needed to play. We had some injuries as well, and we needed to learn how to play the best way on offense and defense. Our guys have a great work ethic and you see that in the way they work out and come to the gym.”
In the SAA women’s tournament hosted by Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Ga., the Millsaps women’s basketball team lost to Oglethorpe by a score of 61-40. They were led by Anna Wilson who scored 12 points, but the Majors fell behind by 18 points at the end of the third quarter. The women’s team ended their season with an overall record of 8-18, and finished eighth in the SAA.
The women’s basketball team also has just one senior on the roster, forward Jessica Patterson. On Senior Day, the Majors lost a close game in overtime to Birmingham Southern by a final score of 82-77.