Posted on 01 March 2012.
To say Indiana Wesleyan University men’s basketball team has had a roller-coaster season is an understatement. Starting out the year 9-0, it looked as if the Wildcats would cruise through the season. Unfortunately, the team went 5-5 over the next 10 games, putting the Wildcats in a tough spot.
Finishing the season at 21-11 on a high note, it seemed the Wildcats were going to pull off the MCC Tournament crown.
But Saturday, Feb. 25 saw IWU suffer a heartbreaking loss to Saint Francis by a score of 78-65, knocking the Wildcats out in the second round of the bracket.
But don’t count them out of the running for the NAIA National Tournament.
Head coach Greg Tonagel, while visibly frustrated, said he is ready for his players to step up their game at the big dance after the up-and-down season.
“Earning a bid to the national tournament was about your body of work over the entire year, and we’ve done well enough to get into the national tournament,” Tonagel said.
Tournament time is the most exciting of times, but it’s also an urgent time. Just one loss in NAIA Tournament and the Wildcats’ season is finished.
So how does a team bounce back from a heartbreaking loss and prepare for another tournament game?
IWU Director of Basketball Operations Steven Gidley (jr) explained: “I think we move on now, our guys are good at that. They’ve been in the gym working hard, getting up a lot of shots. They’re gonna head to practice, they’re gonna do film, they’re gonna do the right things and they’re going to prepare for the national tournament. It’s the big stage; everyone wants to do well on the big stage.”
Guard Derrick Troyer (sr) agreed. “I think the guys will come back a little more passionate,” he said.
Luckily for the Wildcats, coach Tonagel has a plan.
“This team needs to understand basic fundamentals,” Tonagel said. “So we’re going back to the basics. We are treating this week of practice as if it’s October first and the first day of practice.”
With a plan of action and hearts full of passion, the Wildcats head out to Missouri March 7 to compete for the NAIA Title.
“Our goal mindset as a program is to win the national tournament. We’re always going home on Sundays and Saturdays, and I don’t like that,” Gidley said. “I think I speak for the whole team in that, we are ready to enjoy a nice dinner on Monday night and go to work on Tuesday.”
Coach Tonagel is heading into the tournament with hopes that his players can show their skills in the big game and bring home a national crown.
“Any team can get hot, there’s some things we definitely have to correct and fix, but I’m looking for our team to get hot again,” Tonagel said. “We started out the year hot, went through a really rough spot, and now it sure would be nice to get going again.”