Rebounding = the act of retrieving and gaining possession of the ball as it bounces off the backboard or rim after an unsuccessful shot and it is an integral part of basketball.
Murray State is good at rebounding. Senior forward Ivan Aska leads the team with 143 rebounds on the season, followed by junior forward Ed Daniel with 142 and junior guard Latreze Mushatt with 140, but it’s the team as a whole that is making the real rebound.
According to Webster’s Dictionary rebounding means to recover in value, amount or strength after a previous decrease or decline. That’s what this team is doing. That’s what this team has done and that’s what this team will continue to do.
After all, what defines a person or team is not how they fall but how well they rise after falling.
Last Thursday the Racers’ unbeaten streak came to an end. The loss was coupled with sadness and tears, at least on my face, as they fell to Tennessee State 72-68 in what might have been the longest final seconds of my life.
It was the first time Steve Prohm had ever lost as head coach and as a reporter I didn’t know what to expect in the post-game press conference. However, the coach we saw sitting in front of the media was exactly the same coach we had seen all year. His eyes might have been a little more red and his tone a little more somber, but his demeanor hadn’t changed and his character hadn’t faltered. The same can be said for the rest of the team.
“When we first lost it felt like we’d lost a championship or something,” senior guard Jewuan Long said. “But we had to bounce back fast and jump back into reality knowing that we had a game on Saturday and we were still in a great situation.”
A typical Friday practice for a one-day turnaround would have involved rest and recuperation, Prohm said, but this Friday practice was different.
“At first we were kind of sad but I’d rather lose now than in a tournament,” junior forward Stacy Wilson said. “We didn’t lose focus but we were down a little bit. Coach P., he took it the right way, he came in the next day ready to go to work, more focused and more energized.”
On Friday the team worked on offensive rebounding effort and dribble penetration.
“We were struggling on that before the loss and (Prohm) focused on that before we lost,” Long said. “He just reminded us that those are the things we need to get better at and we see that more now that we lost. Some people take it for granted when you win all those games and you don’t see it, there’s not as much focus on it as there needs to be.”
Two days after its first loss, the team ran onto the court in the CFSB Center looking fresh and ready to face OVC rivalry Austin Peay.
Face them they did.
The Racers showed the composure and resiliency Prohm so often speaks of as the conquered the Governors 82-62 in the most lopsided win over Austin Peay since 1999.
“We definitely have a lot of motivation,” Long said. “We bounced back well on Saturday and learned a lot. After downs we can pick back up and get back on track.”
Bouncing back under the eyes of national media, the pressure of being ranked and against a rivalry team is difficult but the Racers proved it was possible, showing the world how well Murray State can rebound.
“You’ve got to realize there is a lot more that you’ve got to get done,” Long said. “You’ve got to realize even with wins there is still a lot of things you probably did wrong in games and you’ve got to get better at it. If you just take all the good stuff in and not the bad there is no way of getting better and that’s when you make your downfall. So that’s what we try to do – we try to worry about the things we do good and also work on the things we struggle on and try to get better.”
Wilson had 10 points, a rebound and two assists during 16 minutes of play against Austin Peay.
“That first loss against Tennessee State, we wasn’t quite doing the things we usually do so when Austin Peay came to town we decided to come back hard and play harder and do the little things that matter most, like playing defense, rebounding the ball and taking care of the ball,” Wilson said. “I came out and played hard, I had some open shots I just hit and I’ve got to give credit to my teammates for getting me open and finding me at the right time and making plays.”
Fun is still Prohm’s focus during practice as well as converting weaknesses to strengths, Long said.
“We’re still having a lot of fun,” Long said. His attitude hasn’t changed none, practice has always been a little bit fun and his attitude hasn’t changed since we lost or anything like that, we still do the same thing we just focus on our weaknesses a little bit more.”
The team’s rebounding efforts continued in the 75-66 win over Southeast Missouri Wednesday night.
“I just told the guys in the locker room, who’d of thought we’d be sitting here 25-1?” Prohm said after the game Wednesday. “Because when we lost the other night at Tennessee State everybody said, ‘Oh, here it comes,’ but we regrouped and were able to beat Austin Peay and then come back and I thought we played really well tonight. To go on an opponent’ home floor and hold them to 37 percent shooting is impressive.”
The players agreed Prohm rebounded from the loss well.
“I believe (Coach Prohm) did a great job,” Long said. “He still said we did a great job and everything – we still have a great season and we still have something special going on. One loss doesn’t define who we are and he just reminded us of all that.”