By: Jesse Frazier
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – The Bridgewater State Bears find their season slipping after six straight losses to start the season. Among them is a 94-84 road loss to the UMass Dartmouth Pirates on Dec. 2, where the Bears achieved their third-highest point total of the season (84) but failed to meet that output on defense.
The Tinsley Center is the place that the Bears have to jump-start their season. The team turned in three-game home losing streak at the end of November to Endicott College, UMass Boston, and Rhode Island College, into two-straight home victories (Wheaton College, Becker) before the end of the Fall semester.
Despite a sluggish start to the season, a competitive schedule is exactly what legendary Bears head coach Joe Farroba wants for the team in his 28th season.
Farroba believes the team’s primary issue thus far is on the defensive end, failing to make stops in key situations: “It’s truly a matter of making three or four stops and the game swings the other way,” he said.
The coach also cited an inability to receive depth scoring from the team’s bench as a factor in the early stretch of losses. A look at a box score suggest that scoring points is not an issue, as they remain competitive until the final few possessions. The difference is a need for both starters and bench players to emerge in clutch situations.
“When you lose games by eight to 10 points, it makes you think what you could’ve done to get a few more possessions.”
This is the Bears second rough start in as many seasons, though nothing new for Farroba, a Provincetown native and UMass Boston alum. A former three-sport athlete in high school, and a college basketball player at UMass Boston (formerly Boston State College) under former Celtic Jim Lascatoff and McGill University in Canada, Farroba started as an assistant coach before coaching and substitute teaching at Medfield High School. Farroba almost accepted an assistant coaching position at Marquette University in Wisconsin in 1986, opting instead to stay closer to his young family.
That is where Bridgewater State College came in. Farroba joined as an assistant coach the same year under Mark Champagne, and inherited the head coaching position in 1992 when Champagne left for personal reasons. Through 28 seasons, Farroba led Bridgewater State to four ECAC Qualifier games, six NCAA Qualifier games, and a Division III tournament Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2009.
When talking about long term goals for the team, coach had this to say. “Our goal is to always be playing in the last Saturday of February as then we know it’s tournament time.”
Farroba’s teams are known for “Bear ball”, an aggressive and hard-nosed style aiming to exhaust the opponent into mistakes. The Bears play a combination of zone defense and man-to-man, and they can change it depending on the situation. This style likely needs be re-emphasis for the team going forward.
If there is hope for a mid-season spark, it is in the talent on the roster, featuring a skilled recruiting class with great scoring abilities. The defensive effort can immediately improve with the help of 6-7 sophomore center Max Schraut (Abington, Mass.), who appeared in just 20 minutes of game time before suffering an ankle injury and migraines in his return to practice.
Farroba speaks highly of his “big three”, seniors Dimitri St. Louis (Brockton, Mass.), Rayshon Ward (Fayetteville, NC), and Ryan Carney (Easton, Mass.) have all been great contributors so far. The trio leads the team in minutes and provide stability to a roster dealing with injuries and early-season uncertainty.
The Bears coach is also was pleased with the progression of sophomore guard Calvin Bridges (South Hadley, Mass.) on the defensive end, and considering an extension of the guard’s minutes. He is also hopeful for freshman forward Mathew Romano (Sanford, Maine) who Farroba calls “a jewel in the rough” with impressive leadership skills despite his age.
A slow start to the season is summarized by defensive woes, a lack of contribution from depth players, and a need for clutch scoring on offense. If there is hope for a return to form, it is in the veteran leadership of Farroba and the “big three” seniors in St. Louis, Ward and Carney. The Bears face MIT on Dec. 12, and to Springfield for the Naismith Classic in the first week of January.
Their first home back back at Tinsley Center is against MCLA on Saturday, Jan. 11 at 3 p.m. The Bears ask for the support of their fans, friends and family as they hope to bounce back in 2020.