Braves defense lacks identity, toughness

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Herald

Defense is a mentality. The Ottawa University men’s basketball team has gone away from being intense defensive unit.

    At times, teams have scored at will against the Braves. Ottawa coach Aaron Siebenthall said a change is necessary for success.

Ottawa University senior Jaquan Daniels uses his body to shield off the defender on his way to the basket Monday against McPherson.

    “We have no defensive toughness,” Siebenthall said. “We have no defensive identity. We are not playing as hard as we can on that end. Defensively, we are giving up layups and letting people post us up in the lane. We are not matched up. It is simple basketball things that we are not doing.”

Ottawa University junior Ian Moore leans back toward the basket to toss in a layup in Ottawa’s double overtime loss to McPherson. Moore tossed in a career-best 31 points.

    Ottawa has surrendered more than 80 points in five of six games since returning from a 33-day break because of the pandemic.

    McPherson rang up 100 points on Ottawa Monday in a 103-99 double overtime loss in Wilson Field House. Ottawa slipped to 4-4 overall and 2-4 in KCAC play. Ottawa returned five seniors from last year’s KCAC title team that did display defensive toughness.

    “We have a lot of guys [back] from last year’s team,” Siebenthall said. “We don’t have the same emotion, same want to and same drive. The frustrating part is we have good players on both ends of the floor. We have to have a better sense of urgency.

    Siebenthall said the he has not done a good enough job in getting across the expectations of being a Braves player.

    “I have not done a good enough job of relaying that message to our guys in a way they can implement it on the floor,” he said. “This is our culture. This is how we do things. This how we play defense. These are our expectations.

    “It is really about ourselves and not about our opponents. We are so lackadaisical on defense. We have to find a fire on that end. It starts with our seniors. It starts with the guys that were here last year. They have to step up and be leaders and hold other guys accountable the way we play defense. If we do that, we have a chance. If we don’t, we have to hope we can outscore teams. Sometimes the ball doesn’t go in the basket.”

    Last season’s national tourney team was built on defense turning into offense. Siebenthall said it is has been the opposite so far this season.

    “We let our offense dictate our defense,” he said. “We played good defense and had a really good defensive field goal percentage [last season]. Our defensive field goal percentage is awful because we are giving up wide open looks.”

    The coach said expects changes to happen, starting at Tuesday’s practice.

    “I still believe in these guys,” Siebenthall said. “I believe in this team. I believe we can be good. I believe we can get hot at the right time and make run in the conference tournament. I also know none of that changes unless the attitude about how we play defense changes.”

    Ottawa had a start in the second half against McPherson. Ottawa rallied from a 45-37 halftime deficit with a 10-2 run to open the second half. The game was tight the rest of the way through regulation and overtimes.

    “The loss stings,” Siebenthall said. “It is never easy in the KCAC.”

    Ottawa placed five players in double figures. Ian Moore and Joe Johnson III led Ottawa with career-bests 31 and 25 points. Andre Jackson had 13 points and 10 rebounds. Perry Carroll tossed in 12 and Mason McDow, 11.

    Jaquan Daniels snared a career-best 14 rebounds.

‘    Ottawa plays 7 p.m. Thursday at home against Oklahoma Wesleyan.