By BLAKE TOPPMEYER
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
We've watched this script unfold before.
We've seen a group of Quincy University basketball players lose six games during a seven-game stretch and cap that span with a loss at Pepsi Arena to team QU has no business losing to.
Yes, we saw that scene unfold in November and early December, when the QU women lost six of the season's first seven games, ending that stretch with an inexplicable 72-66 home loss on Dec. 5 to Harris Stowe State, an NAIA squad with seven players in uniform.
Now we're watching it unfold again. The QU men lost 72-70 to Rockhurst on Thursday at Pepsi Arena, marking the Hawks' sixth loss in their first seven games since the calendar rolled over to 2013. Sure, Rockhurst is a Great Lakes Valley Conference foe and at least had more than seven players in uniform. But RU had lost 13 straight games before Thursday.
It was a bad loss for Quincy and bumped QU's record to 7-9 overall and 2-6 in the GLVC entering its 3:15 p.m. Saturday game against William Jewell (8-8, 4-4) at Pepsi Arena.
Thursday's loss left media and fans alike thinking the Hawks are dead in the water, that the Hawks are like George Costanza and the only conceivable reason for them to even get up in the morning is to get the Daily News.
Yet, crazy as it might sound, maybe there's still hope. Remember, we've watched this script unfold before.
To right the ship, the Hawks need to start playing like women -- the QU women, that is. Following that 1-6 start, the Lady Hawks have won eight of nine games, and they sit in a tie with Missouri S&T atop the GLVC West Division standings. The Lady Hawks have found success with good defense and rebounding. The men need to do the same.
At this point in the season, we're forced to accept a couple realities. One is that the QU men are often offensively challenged. Junior guard Chris Babbitt (14.1 points per game) and senior forward Tyler Thompson (13.5 ppg) are the only Hawks averaging at least 7.5 points per game.
Making outside jump shots is usually a nightly battle for the Hawks, who rank last in the 16-team GLVC in 3-point percentage (30.5 percent).
However, during the preseason, not one QU player said he expected the Hawks to beat teams by putting on head-turning offensive displays every night. The Hawks said they expected to win first and foremost with defense and by controlling the glass, and Quincy isn't doing that.
"Defensive consistency. Without a doubt, that's what's going to have to be our trademark," QU coach Marty Bell said during a preseason interview. "If we don't do that, it's going to be a struggle. But we've got to be a great defensive team and rebound the basketball."
Quincy has claimed a rebounding advantage in only five games this season.
The Hawks rank 14th in the GLVC in field-goal percentage defense (45.9 percent) and last in in 3-point percentage defense (38.5 percent). Teams can't win with those numbers, especially teams that aren't making an abundance of shots themselves. If you're only making 30.5 percent of your threes, you win by limiting your opponents to 25 percent 3-point shooting.
The six worst teams in the GLVC in field-goal percentage defense are Missouri S&T, Illinois-Springfield, St. Joseph's, Quincy, Rockhurst and McKendree. It's no coincidence that those are also the six teams with the worst GLVC records.
What can defense and rebounding do for you?
During the Lady Hawks' 1-6 start, their opponents made 45.8 percent of their field-goal attempts. Since then, their opponents have made 36.5 percent of their field-goal attempts. The QU women are 9-0 this season when their opponent shoots worse than 42.5 percent from the field. The Lady Hawks have won the rebounding battle in 13 games this season, including 11 straight.
The QU men have 10 regular-season games left. It's a very real possibility that those will be their last 10 games of the season and they won't be one of the 12 teams to qualify for the GLVC Tournament.
Or, the Hawks can do like their female counterparts and buy into defense and rebounding and try to write a good ending to this script.