In its first season after Dick Whitmore’s 600-win coaching career, the Colby men’s basketball team knew things would be different. The Mules have adjusted and now just need a little luck.

Colby finished 11-13 last season, including 2-7 in the New England Small College Athletic Conference. The Mules are 4-10 this winter and have lost all three of their NESCAC games. Most of those 10 losses have been tough ones.

Colby lost by two points to in-city rival Thomas in December. It led Curry by five with a minute to go, but went 3 for 9 fromthe foul line down the stretch and lost by a point.

The Mules lost to Hamilton by eight, but that was a one-point game at the half. They led Bates by five at halftime but lost by 11. In their last game, they were 20 of 23 from the line against Tufts, but still lost by five.

“Probably the most simplistic common denominator is some of the second-chance baskets we’ve given up,” first-year Colby coach Damien Strahorn said. “We’re a little bit undersized relative to the league, and just being able to finish possessions is something we’re trying to address.”

Strahorn says it’s also a case of everybody learning together how to win.

Colby has already shown the ability to improve one of its biggest weaknesses. Through 11 games, the Mules as a team were 77 of 152 from the line — just under 51 percent. By comparison, Shaquille O’Neal, a notoriously poor free throw shooter, shot 53 percent from the line in his pro career.

But in the last three games, the Mules have made 39 of their 48 free throws, which is just over 81 percent.

• • •

The Colby women’s basketball team has a big weekend looming. The Mules (11-2) host Trinity at 6 tonight, and at 2 p.m. Saturday they host 15-0 Amherst, ranked No. 1 in the nation in the USA  Today/ESPN Coaches and d3hoops.com polls. Amherst defeated Colby, 82-60 last Jan. 28 in the teams’ last meeting.

Four of Colby’s five starters are averaging in double figures. Cony grad Rachael Mack is at 12.4 ppg, and also leads the Mules with 25 steals, followed by Jil Vaughan (12.3 ppg), Aarika Ritchie (11.2 ppg), and Diana Manduca (10.2 ppg). Colby has hit 98 3-pointers as a team in 13 games.

Amherst is 15-0, and those wins are by an average of nearly 40 points, in large part because Amherst’s opponents are shooting 27 percent from the floor. The closest games were a pair of 21-point wins. Colby recently beat Hamilton, 65-54. In its next game, Hamilton lost to Amherst, 78-25.

The individual stats aren’t as jaw-dropping, but are still impressive. Starting forward Lem Atanga McCormick is averaging 11.7 ppg for example, but she’s also playing only 20 minutes per game.

•••

Another interesting basketball game Saturday is at 4 p.m. in Waterville, as the Thomas men host Husson. Thomas lost to Husson, 77-70 on Jan. 10 in Bangor, and that’s the Terriers’ only loss in their last six games. Husson had won three straight before being knocked off, 67-64, by UMaine-Farmington on Thursday.

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243
[email protected]


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