The No. 10 Ottawa University men’s basketball team is itching to play again after a three-week break.
The Braves (14-1, 8-1) return to the court at 5 p.m. Saturday at home against Sterling (1-8, 3-12). Ottawa has won six straight games, including a forfeit over Haskell Indian Nations University on Monday.
Ottawa coach Aaron Siebenthall said not playing Haskell was disappointing.
“It was planned that way so we could get some live game action before we got back into conference,” he said. “We had an intra-squad scrimmage with officials on that same day. We tried to do something game-like before we got back into it. The guys are rested physically and mentally and ready to get back after it.”
Siebenthall said they did not do anything special during the holiday break.
“We tried to stick with our normal routine and not switch it up,” Siebenthall said. “We are not adding a lot. We are sticking with what we are doing and trying to do it better. We came back and did a couple of two-a-day practices. We have been back in the weight room. We have been able to get a little extra shooting in.”
Siebenthall is happy to be back on Andy Carrier Court in Wilson Field House after playing six of its first nine KCAC games on the road. Five of the next seven games are at home. Ottawa has won 17 of its past 19 home games.
“We are happy to be at home to start the (new) year,” Siebenthall said. “We have some home games coming up. That is a plus. We have a good community following. There is never an off night in our league.”
Siebenthall warned Sterling is a capable team, despite its losing record.
“They do some new things and have a new coach,” he said. “Preparing for a new coach is always different.”
The coach said the Braves can’t be satisfied with their accomplishments in the first half of the season.
“We reminded our guys we had a good first semester on the court,” Siebenthall said. “We have a good record and ranking. We got some individual recognition. That is all great, but those are reflections of the past. It will have no bearing or implication of the future. We have to focus on [the second half] of the season. Every (game) is important. We have to worry about Sterling next. We will go forward from there.”
Siebenthall said the second half of the conference season will be challenging.
“There is no easy games,” he said. “Our guys are ready and excited about the challenge. People know we are a good basketball team. We have a game plan for (other teams) and they have a game plan for the way we play. Hopefully, we will continue to play hard and do team things. Good things will happen if we do those things.
“I don’t know if we have better players than everybody else, but I think we play really well together as a team. You see that in our assist numbers. We have had seven or eight different guys be our leading scorers this year. We have 16 guys play and make a three in a game. We are deep and well-rounded. It should be a fun second half of the season.”
That balance comes from sharing the ball. Siebentall said the Braves want to play uptempo and with a high-possession mentality.
“We feel — if we can play high possessions and get to the rim and make high percentage twos as well as keep shooting it well from three — we will be successful,” he said. “We have to get the ball side-to-side. When the ball changes sides of the floor, it makes it more difficult on the defense. That is why we like to share the ball so much. If we do that, the ball is going to find the right guy’s hands and he will probably be open. Part of that rhythm is more possessions. That is why we want to play fast.”
The Braves are 14-1 for the first time since the 1952-53 season when they won their first six games before losing to Drury University on Jan. 2, 1953, 90-80. Ottawa rebounded to win 13 straight and finished at 20-3.
The last time Ottawa started the KCAC season at 8-1 was in the 1994-95 season, when the Braves went 21-9, won the KCAC Tournament title and made a trip to the NAIA Division II National Tournament.