In their second-to-last home game of the year, the Morris Redskins struggled defensively against the Streator Bulldogs in a Northern Illinois Big 12 crossover matchup.
The Redskins had trouble containing junior guard Nolan Sokol, and his 16 points on the night helped lead the Bulldogs to a 55-52 win on the road.
Morris came out a bit sluggish on both ends of the floor, and a late surge by the Bulldogs gave Streator a 14-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Morris senior guard Jake Hogan began to assert himself for the Redskins. Hogan hit a pair of second quarter trifectas, scoring eight points in the period and helping Morris draw even with Streator at the end of the first half. Hogan would score 11 of his game-high 17 points in the first two quarters.
“When I look at how I played in the first half, I look at the team and how I made people better, and I thought we definitely could have played better,” Hogan said. “We came out and knew that we had to get better in the second half, and we just fell a little short.”
Unfortunately for the Redskins, defensive lapses coming out of halftime gave Streator the opportunity to distance themselves going into the final period. Sokol scored five quick points to start the half and the Bulldogs shot 8-for-11 from the field in the third quarter.
“We didn’t defend the drive at all tonight,” Morris head coach Joe Blumberg said. “That started in the first half, getting driven baseline — driven anywhere they wanted to drive, really. That’s what’s toughest to take from this loss. (After the game) we didn’t spend much time talking about the offensive end of the floor.”
The Redskins would have faced an even larger deficit going into the fourth quarter had it not been for seven third-quarter points from sophomore Austin Patterson and a banked in three by Hogan with less than 20 seconds left. Yet, despite never trailing by double digits in the game, Morris struggled with energy throughout the game.
“We definitely have to mentally prepare ourselves. We can’t think, ‘It’s Tuesday. It’s a non-conference game.’ We can’t think of it like that. We really need to come out and treat every night like it’s a Friday conference game,” Hogan said.
In the fourth quarter, the Redskins found themselves trailing by eight points with just over a minute remaining. However, while the student section slowly whittled down, the Redskins were able to mount one last charge. The 'Skins forced four turnovers in the final three minutes and got the help of three straight missed free throws from Streator to let them back into the game.
Sophomore Evan Bjelland scored the Redskins final eight points of the game, and his long three with 9.6 seconds left set up a Streator in-bounds pass with just a 55-52 lead. Morris’ backcourt pressure forced a long pass into the front court that Patterson chased down and snared just in time to call timeout as he was falling out of bounds.
It set up the Redskins with one final chance to run the floor and tie the game with 6.9 seconds to go. Morris was unable to get a quality look, and Hogan’s last-ditch effort clattered off the backboard.