By BLAKE TOPPMEYER
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
The 2012-13 Quincy University men's basketball team was never truly designed to be a 20-win team.
There were simply too many uncertainties.
Who would replace Courtney Belger at point guard and Justin Brock at center?
How would Tyler Thompson rebound from the knee injury that sidelined him throughout the 2011-12 season?
Could junior guard Chris Babbitt become the Hawks' go-to option on offense?
How long would it take for an inexperienced roster to mature?
Some of those questions were answered with positive results, but ultimately, QU's freshmen- and sophomore-laden roster yielded a 12-15 record.
It marked the second losing season in coach Marty Bell's 10 seasons and the first since the Hawks went 11-17 in 2003-04, his first season on the QU bench.
Throughout the season, Bell was largely pleased with his players' effort, and he saw marked improvement in a few of a his underclassmen. He didn't deny, though, the end result left a sour taste in his mouth.
"This is still an unacceptable standard," Bell said of the season after QU lost 73-65 to Lewis on Sunday in the first round of the GLVC Tournament, ending Quincy's season. "This is not an acceptable standard. This is not acceptable. We need to re-evaluate and recommit ourselves in the offseason to make sure that this is not happening again. That's going to be our battle cry."
Here's a look back at some of the good and bad that unfolded this season:
Storyline of the year
Quincy's biggest problem was a lack of consistency.
At times, the Hawks looked like a pretty good defensive squad. Defense was supposed to be their calling card. Then there were times, such as a 76-50 Dec. 18 home loss to Truman State, in which the Hawks made a mediocre offensive team look like the Harlem Globetrotters.
Quincy never lost more than four games in a row, but more noticeably, it never won more than two straight games.
The Hawks were decided underdogs when they played at Maryville on Feb. 23. The Saints came in 12-3 at home and were in the process of wrapping up second place in the GLVC West Division.
QU was simply fighting for a spot in the GLVC's 12-team tournament.
The Hawks turned in arguably their finest defensive performance of the season. QU limited Maryville to 35.3 percent shooting, including a 3-of-22 showing (13.6 percent) from 3-point range. Quincy also won the battle on the glass by six rebounds and benefited from timely hustle plays.
Although the Hawks shot only 34 percent from the field, they clinched their spot in the GLVC Tournament by showcasing the defense and tenacity they vowed would be their trademark.
A non-conference slate full of mostly mediocre-at-best competition played a hand in QU taking a 6-3 record into the new year.
In January, the Hawks' season started to unravel. The month started with four straight losses to GLVC East teams, and QU finished January with a 2-7 mark.
A couple of embarrassing defeats really stood out. On Jan. 5, the Hawks were outscored by 14 points in the second half in a 67-59 loss to McKendree at Lebanon, Ill. At the time, the loss seemed bad, but not horrible, as the result pushed McKendree to 7-5 overall and 1-1 in the GLVC. Yet, after the Bearcats went on to lose their next 16 games to close the season with a 1-17 GLVC mark, we truly appreciated how ugly that "L" looked on QU's schedule.
Still, it probably wasn't bad as the 72-70 loss QU suffered to Rockhurst on Jan. 24 at Pepsi Arena. With Rockhurst shooting 12 of 19 (63.2 percent) from 3-point range, it looked like the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls on that night. In reality, it was a team that entered the contest having lost 13 straight games following a season-opening win over an NAIA foe.
Diamonds in the rough
Quincy's overall record can't be blamed on Thompson or Babbitt.
Thompson was a bull in the post, providing the Hawks with strength on the court in addition to leadership. He ranked second on the team at 12.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game and collected second-team All-GLVC honors.
Babbitt was even better. In a season marked by inconsistency, Babbitt proved dependable in nearly every contest. He reached double figures in scoring 23 times, and he scored at a proficient rate, shooting 48.2 percent from the field and 83.3 percent from the free-throw line. His averages of 15.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game paced QU, and he earned first-team all-conference and all-defensive team accolades.
Dalton Hoover, QU's 6-foot-7 freshman center, saw his playing time increase throughout the season. Although his final averages of 6.5 points and 3.4 rebounds per game won't turn heads, he finished the season with a bang.
Hoover scored at least seven points in QU's final five games, including three games in which he netted at least 14 points. The highlight was his 21-point, five-rebound performance in QU's 71-66 Feb. 16 home win over Missouri S&T with Thompson sidelined with a sprained ankle.
Hoover is equipped with a sweet 15-foot jumper, and he's capable of playing the power forward or center position. Once he adds a little more strength and learns to hit the glass with more consistency, he could become a very dependable big man.
Freshman point guard Nate Des Jardins also finished the season on a high. He played only eight minutes total during the nine 2012 games, but by mid-January, he had secured Quincy's backup point guard spot. Des Jardins earned his second career start in QU's season finale, and he delivered 14 points in 31 minutes -- both career highs -- and went 4 of 6 from 3-point range. Des Jardins probably isn't destined to become QU's starting point guard of the future, but he could have a nice career providing a spark as a top option off the bench if he continues playing like he did the final month and a half of the season.
The jury's still out on ...
Freshman point guard Grant Meyer, sophomore forward Scott Hahn and sophomore guard Jordan Wilson. All three showed some signs of brilliance in a few games, but their overall performance was inconsistent.
This is an important offseason for Meyer. He'll have Des Jardins and Springfield Southeast product Herman Senor II, a verbal commit, breathing down his neck for the starting point guard spot.
Meyer earned the starting spot by mid-November, but his performance slumped down the stretch, and he played a season-low nine minutes in the finale.
Hahn, a top option off the bench, reached double figures in scoring in four of the first eight games. He then eclipsed double digits just twice more the rest of the season. When he's right, he's a deadly 3-point shooter, as evidenced by his 12-of-19 3-point shooting (63.2 percent) in the season's first eight games.
Wilson was playing out of position at point guard at the start of the season. It has since been settled that he isn't a good option at the point, and Wilson now can spend the offseason focusing on improving his game at the two-guard. That starts with improving his jumper. Wilson shot just 33.1 percent from the field, including 28.6 percent from 3-point range.
What has to improve
Better shooting would go a long way in helping the Hawks become a more dangerous team. QU ranked 15th in the GLVC in scoring (65.3 ppg), 12th in field-goal percentage (43 percent) and last in 3-point percentage (31.3 percent).
A possible solution might be going with a bigger lineup and pounding the ball into the post to guys like Hoover, 6-10 freshman center Jens Kennedy, 6-6 freshman forward Scottie Bruxvoort and 6-9 freshman forward Evan McGaughey. Bruxvoort, a transfer from Division I Albany, and McGaughey redshirted this season.
If QU doesn't improve its shooting, then the Hawks must become better defensively and on the glass. Although QU played OK defensively the final eight games of the season, the Hawks rarely dominated on that end of the floor.
In fact, QU didn't really dominate in any specific area. The Hawks ranked no higher than seventh in the GLVC in any statistical category.
During this offseason, Quincy must discover its true calling card and show more dedication toward making that a reality next season. Only then will winning 20-plus games again become a true possibility.