BELOIT - The Beloit Memorial boys basketball team was active defensively, worked hard to get good shots on offense and played fast and loose Thursday night.
Well, that described the first four minutes against Janesville Craig, anyway. After the Purple Knights took a 10-3 lead, things went downhill. And fast.
By the time the final buzzer sounded, the dejected Knights headed to the Barkin Arena locker room with an ugly 65-42 loss to the Cougars in their Big Eight opener.
The Knights struggled in virtually every aspect of the game in coach Dondre Bell's home debut. On offense, the Knights would settle for contested jumpers. On defense, the Cougars often found open lanes to the basket, leading to easy buckets.
After taking a 13-7 lead featuring a 1-3-1 zone with Kamryn Bach as the point man, the Knights saw the Cougars embark on a game-changing 16-0 run that lasted nearly six minutes. By the time halftime hit, the Cougars were in complete command, leading 36-23.
The lead never got below 13 in the second half and got as high as 27.
Bell said the team let the early advantage get in their heads.
"With the intensity we started with defensively, had we played like that for five more minutes, we might have buried them," Bell said. "But our guys thought the game was over. I told them that we have to play every second of every minute of every game. We aren't good enough to have lapses. Once we started relaxing the snowball started rolling down the hill and we couldn't stop it."
While the defensive effort left much to be desired, the effeciveness of the offense wasn't much better.
"We stopped moving the ball, we stopped running our offense and we started playing hero ball," Bell said. "The guys got down 10 points, and that's really not a big deficit. Make a few shots and you're right back in the game. But we started jacking way too many threes and just weren't moving the ball. I told them that basketball is a game of runs. We went on the first run, they took the second one.
"We just had to continue to push, but we've just got to improve our basketball IQ. In the last 10 minutes or so, they just ran the same play on us and we never stepped up in the middle to stop it. Or we score a basket, get happy about it and get beat down court. We talked about transition defense all week, but it didn't show up."
Terrell Ringer led the Knights with nine points, while no other Knights managed to score more than seven. The Knights went just 6-for-20 at the free throw line. Aaron Leverson led the Cougars with 15 points.
"They started figuring out our defense," Bach said. "They were swinging the ball really fast against us and that ended up giving them open looks. We were just complacent with the early lead, We just have to work better as a team. We weren't out there trusting each other the way we need to, and that's what we've been working for all week in practice. When we play smaller teams like Craig, we have to work on getting our guards in the post. That was our game plan this week, and we didn't execute."
• UP NEXT: The challenge for the Knights won't get any easier, as they travel to Sun Prairie Saturday night.
. BOXSCORE: CRAIG 65, BELOIT 42
Craig 35 30- 65
Beloit 23 19- 42
Craig- Huml 4-0-10; Scoville 3-0-6, Bertagnoli 3-1-7k, Rizzo 1-0-2, Fieriras 1-0-2, Leverson 6-2-15, Smith 1-0-2, Lynch 1-0-2, Lynch 5-0-10, Ronde 2-2-8, Clark 1-0-2, Harriel 0-1-1. Totals: 27 6-11 65.
Beloit- France 1-0-2, Ringer 3-2-9, Payene 0-1-1, Cook 3-1-7, Freeman 1-0-3, Bell 1-2-4, Bach 3-0-6, White 3-0-6, Gaines 1-0-2, Boyd 2-0-5, Chandler 1-0-3. Totals: 16 6-20 42.
3-pointers: Craig 5 (Huml 2, Ronde 2, Leverson). Beloit 4 (Chandler, Ringer, Boyd, Freeman). Total fouls: Craig 18, Beloit 15