Trine trying to put last year in past

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Jared Holmquist is one of the leaders of a Trine men's basketball team looking to make a name for itself.
Trine athletics file photo 

By Rob Knox

All it took was a few possessions of a pickup game when the Trine men’s basketball players returned to school in August to know that something was different about the Thunder.

“The way last year ended, left a bitter taste in all of our mouths,” Trine senior Jared Holmquist. “We were happy to host (a MIAA playoff game), but we didn’t like the outcome. We all worked extremely hard over the summer because we want to get that spot again and increase our chances of enjoying a better outcome this season. We all have some extra motivation.”

When you have battled-tested seniors who are focused, dedicated, driven and poised then special things are bound to happen as evidenced by the Thunder roaring through its non-conference schedule with a 10-1 record, its best start to a season since joining NCAA Division III in 2004-05. Trine, then known as Tri-State, also started with a 10-1 record in 1982-83, as a NAIA member.

That start has the Thunder among the nation’s elite for the first time as a Division III member. The Thunder are ranked 23rd in the latest D3hoops.com Top 25 poll. The team's lone loss came at the hands of eighth-ranked Ohio Wesleyan. The Thunder owns five wins against teams with winning percentages of .500 or better including UW-Oshkosh.

“We are happy with where we are,” Holmquist said. “I don’t know if we predicted we’d be 10-1 at this stage of the season. Coming into the season, we knew we had a chance to be the type of team that can have a successful season. We are focused on getting better as a team and doing what we do best. Our keys have been paying attention to little things like grabbing rebounds with two hands, toughness, having a defensive presence and valuing the basketball.”

Holmquist is leaving a nice legacy at Trine. The Reed City, Mich., native has established himself as one of the most prolific post players in the nation this season. The senior's seven double-doubles are tied for the sixth-most in the country. He averages a team-best 21.2 points (43rd in nation) and 10.6 rebounds per contest (21st). He’s on pace to become the second player in program history to average a double-double in a season.

Holmquist has won two MIAA Player of the Week awards and was recently named to the D3hoops.com Team of the Week. He has notched double-double in four of last five games and has 19 career double-doubles. Holmquist also topped the 1,000-career point mark earlier in the season.

More impressive than all the wonderful numbers is that Holmquist has a job offer lined up working for Crowe Horwath LLP, one of the largest public accounting, consulting, and technology firms in the U.S., in the fall.

“His presence about him is unique,” Trine coach Brooks Miller said. “The way he communicates is unlike anybody I’ve ever been around. He has lots of intangibles. He makes you look a lot better and really represents everything you try to be about. I admire his competitive urgency. There’s a real urgency to the way he plays. Every little details matters and he understands how to compete at a high level.”

Trine has been far from a one-man show this season. The Thunder have been crackling opponents because of contributions from several players. Another key to success has been the closeness of the team away from the court. They enjoy playing x-box together, hanging out with one another and spending time around each other.

“This is the closest team I’ve ever been a part of,” Holmquist said. “There are no cliques within our team. It has carried over to the court and we’re all having fun. You can tell that everybody committed to getting better during the summer as everybody did different individual things. I know for me, I worked on my body, foot speed and strength so that I could improve on guarding the perimeter better.”

Junior Will Dixon has helped pace the hot start with 18.3 points per game. He has matched Holmquist's two Player of the Week honors and was named to the D3hoops.com Team of the Week after winning MVP honors in the Carnegie Mellon DoubleTree Invitational. An explosive guard, Dixon has scored in double figures 10 times this season. He produced a 31-point outing against Chatman where he made 12-of-16 shots. Dixon also dropped 30 points on Millikin.

Seniors Ben Syroka, Sloan Whitaker and Tarvis Malone have been key cogs in Trine’s success this season. Malone scores at an 8.0 point per game clip, 3.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals. Syroka and Whittaker are tenacious defenders and have provided leadership and the fuel of a defensive effort that has the Thunder ranked among the nation’s best.

Trine is allowing 59.5 points per game, a mark that ranks seventh nationally. The Thunder have been ranked as high as second in the nation in that category. The defense allows opponents to shoot 38.4 percent from the field, a mark that ranks 21st in Division III. Trine's defensive effort produced a five-game streak of holding opponents below 40 percent shooting from the field. The Thunder have held opponents to a 28 percent shooting effort from three-point range, the 18th-best mark in the country.

Continuing its trend from the last two seasons, Trine is also committing turnovers at one of the lowest rates in the nation. The Thunder is committing 11.8 turnovers per game, which ranks 41st in the nation. The team has finished each of the last two seasons in the top 10 nationally in that category.

“Tarvis has been in and out in different positions,” Miller said. “He’s continued to figure out how to help this team and he’s understood what he had to do to make us better. Sloan was a kid that we thought would never play a varsity minute in our program. He scored five quick points last Saturday. Overall, these guys are high achievers on and off the floor.”

One of the Thunder’s best wins this season that showcased every facet of what makes them special was scoring the final nine points in the final 78 seconds of overtime to erase a six-point deficit in a 76-73 over Manchester last Wednesday.

It always seems to occur this way whenever a team gets nationally ranked that its next game is a road contest against a program that’s usually been one of the gold standards of excellence. It’s true in Trine’s case as it visits MIAA reigning champion Calvin, a proud program with 19 trips to the NCAA Tournament.

“We understand that this will be an incredible challenge for us,” Morris said. “They do some things that has given us problems in the past and we know they’ll be ready for us. This is a good start for us, but everybody understands that it doesn’t mean a lot going into conference because it starts over again. We are a major work in progress. It’s going to be a good game going and we’ll be prepared.”

William Smith’s skyscrapers

A pair of weekend road wins by the William Smith basketball team resulted in a sweep of the Liberty League's weekly awards. Junior Gabrielle Eure was named the league's Performer of the Week and that freshman Mia Morrison earned Rookie of the Week honors.

While many of the Herons in their team photo on the website roster page are flexing their muscles, making mean faces and showcasing their toned arms, Morrison and Eure have their arms crossed looking focused. The dynamic and authoritative six footers have been a tower of power in the post. William Smith has won three straight games to raise its overall mark to 4-6 following victories over Skidmore and RPI. 

Eure averaged 16.5 points per game and a team-high 15.0 rebounds per game last week. In a 74-73 win at Rensselaer on Saturday, she logged 13 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. The following afternoon at defending league champion Skidmore, Eure posted game-highs of 20 points, 16 rebounds, and three steals. She was 10-of-13 from the floor against the Thoroughbreds and shot 58 percent from the floor for the weekend.

Ranked 13th nationally in field goal percentage (.598) and sixth in offensive rebounds per game (5.8), Eure is averaging 11.8 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 1.0 steal. Eure is second in the league in rebounding and 12th in scoring.

Meanwhile, Morrison picked up her second Liberty League Rookie of the Week award after doing a little of everything. She is averaging a team-high 17.0 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.5 steals, and 1.5 blocks. At RPI, she finished with a game-high 22 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, three steals, and two blocked shots. Morrison followed that performance with another double-double on 12 points and 10 boards against the Thoroughbreds. She enters William Smith’s next game on Jan. 15 against St. Lawrence with three consecutive double-doubles.
 
Morrison has appeared in all 10 games, starting nine. She is averaging a team-leading 12.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.6 apg, a team-high 1.6 spg, and a team-high 1.6 bpg. Morrison is fifth in the league in blocked shots, sixth in rebounding, and ninth in scoring. She has four double-doubles this season.

Charity pays for University of Dallas

The University of Dallas men’s basketball team used the charity stripe to hand Austin College its first setback of the season, 106-104, in a wild Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference opener Saturday.

Dallas’ final 20 points were scored from the foul line. That helped Dallas establish a school record with 37 made free throws. The previous mark was 34 against Parker University on Feb. 22, 2005. The teams combined to commit 61 fouls and attempt 83 free throws, although Dallas did the majority of the foul shooting as it had 55 attempts. Four Austin players fouled out. Amazingly, four different Dallas players attempted at least eight free throws.

That was the second time, according to records dating back to 1991-92, that UD and its opponent broke 100 points in the same contest. The previous date was on Nov. 8, 1993 against Texas Wesleyan, in a 104-101 loss. It is the fourth time Dallas has posted triple-digits on the board against the 'Roos and are 4-0 in those circumstances (from records dating to 1984).

Dallas found its swagger during a four-game homestand in which it won every game to raise its season record to 5-4. For the season, Dallas has been led in scoring by the trio of Lorenzo Gonzalez (13.8 points per game), Prince Giadolor (12.1) and Michael Sarrat (11.4). Tom Kaizer has contributed 9.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.

Gonzalez had a memorable homestand. In the win over Austin, Gonzalez led the team for the second-straight game with 19 points, and was one shy from matching a career-best he achieved last week in a win over Luther. The point guard grabbed a team and season-high nine rebounds, and dished six assists for the third game out of last four. Gonzalez has seven double figure scoring games this season.

Aggies prevail in showdown of surprise streakers

Kudos to Delaware Valley and Swarthmore for an awesome non-conference New Year’s treat that ended with the Aggies claiming a 70-65 victory over the previously undefeated Garnet. Both teams entered the contest with nothing to lose and a combined 19 victories. It’s great when teams aren’t afraid to challenge themselves by playing quality competition.

Tyliek Kimbrough and Chris Moran combined for 41 points for the Aggies, who extended their home court winning streak at James Work Gymnasium to 11 in a row. DelVal is 7-0 at home this season.  Kimbrough finished the day with 19 points, including 12 in the first half when DelVal built a 13-point lead. Moran, who earned his third MAC Freedom player of the week honor, had 14 of his game-high 22 points over the final 20 minutes, including key buckets down the stretch.

Moran averaged 20 points and 11.7 rebounds in a 2-1 week for the Aggies. He opened the week with 30 points on 12-of-19 shooting and 19 rebounds in an 88-74 win over Pine Manor in the first round of the Trinity Holiday Invitational. The performance included the 1,000th point of his career, becoming the 20th player in program history to reach the milestone. Moran's 19 rebounds tied a career-best. Del Val finished second in the invitational and Moran was named to the all-tournament team.

He has been a force for Del Val this season registering six double-doubles and producing at least 20 points on eight occasions.

Zack Yonda led the Garnet with 13 points, scoring six of those points from the line. Big men Chris Bourne and Robbie Walsh added 11 points each against the Aggies. One of many highlights of Swarthmore’s 9-0 start was scoring 100 points for the first time since 2004 during its 103-66 victory over Wells College in the Garnet Holiday Tournament Championship.

Swarthmore returns to Centennial Conference action when it hosts Gettysburg and visits Franklin & Marshall and Johns Hopkins in its next three games.

She’s back

Thomas More has gotten stronger with the return of D3hoops.com Player of the Year Sydney Moss, who had an unbelievably epic 37-point performance against Illinois Wesleyan in a 92-69 victory on Dec. 29. Moss made 13 field goals, including a school single-game record nine three-pointers. In five games, Moss is averaging 22.5 points and 8.8 rebounds for the undefeated Saints, winners of 43 consecutive games.

The unbeatens

Now that the ball has dropped in Times Square and 2016 has dawned, the number of unbeaten have dropped as well.

There are seven perfect teams remaining on the men’s side. They are Whitworth, Susquehanna, John Carroll, Benedictine, Lancaster Bible, NYU, and Augustana.

On the women’s side there are 13 squads with unblemished marks: Albright, George Fox, Keene State, Muhlenberg, Carnegie Mellon, Bluffton, UW-Whitewater, Hope, Scranton, NYU, Amherst, Thomas More, and Birmingham-Southern.

Help me

I am serving as the national columnist this season for D3hoops.com for a second season. To help with telling the best stories, delivering fun and insightful nuggets while providing teams the recognition they deserve, please add me to your email list for press releases and postgame releases at rob.knox@d3sports.com.

Don’t worry about flooding my inbox. I am also going to try to get as many names into my column as possible. Also, feel free to follow me on Twitter @knoxrob1.

Around the Nation was writen by Rob Knox during the 2015-16 season. A former Division III Sports Information Director at Lincoln University, Rob Knox also worked at Coppin State, ESPN, Kutztown and at the Delaware County (Pa.) Daily Times. He was inducted into the Lincoln University Athletics Hall of Fame, named the CoSIDA Rising Star Award College Division winner and won three writing awards for various game stories including the 2007 D-III sectional triple-OT game between Guilford and Lincoln. In the past, he has also written articles for SLAM magazine and the Philadelphia Inquirer. He is a die-hard Philadelphia sports fan, a graduate of Lincoln and is from Chester, Pa.


Ryan Scot

Ryan Scott serves as the lead columnist for D3hoops.com and previously wrote the Mid-Atlantic Around the Region column in 2015 and 2016. He's a long-time D-III basketball supporter and former player currently residing in Middletown, Del., where he serves as a work-at-home dad, doing freelance writing and editing projects. He has written for multiple publications across a wide spectrum of topics. Ryan is a graduate of Eastern Nazarene College.
Previous columnists:
2014-16: Rob Knox
2010-13: Brian Falzarano
2010: Marcus Fitzsimmons
2008-2010: Evans Clinchy
Before 2008: Mark Simon