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The Scarlet & Black

Men’s Basketball take on Beloit, Ripon after losses

After five games against a tough non-conference schedule, from which they emerged with a 1-4 record, the Grinnell Men’s Basketball team will commence conference play this weekend with a duo of home games facing off against Beloit College (1-4) and Ripon College (2-1).  Grinnell will take on the Beloit Buccaneers at 4 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 4 in Darby Gymnasium, and the following day the squad will match up with the Ripon Red Hawks at 7 p.m.

“Both of those are going to be very tough teams,” Assistant Coach Dave Arsenault ’09 said but being at home, and with the talent that we have on our team, I think they are games that we should be able to win. If we can play our game we should go away with a couple of wins.”

The team lost the heart of its offense with the last year graduation of last year’s seniors, which included the program’s all-time leading scorer, John Grotberg ’09, and all-time leader in assists, Dave Arsenault ’09—requiring some players to step into a larger scoring role. Forward Matt Skelley ’12 has increased his offense output significantly by scoring 30 and 29 points in his last two games. Joining him is a troupe of talented first years, including Griffin Lentsch ’13 who is averaging 22 points a game as well as Jesse Ney ’13 and Dylan Seelman ’13 who have both reached double digit scoring in multiple games.

With a 1-4 record, the Pioneers may not seem threatening, however five games against challenging non-conference opponents, including top 10 nationally ranked University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Dave Arsenault knows to put the record in the right perspective.

“We put together a really brutal nonconference schedule,” Arsenault said. “Our first game was probably against the lesser of our four [opponents]. After that, they have been against very good competition.”

Although some first years have been thriving, others have struggled with shooting due to both the unique offensive style of Grinnell and the lack of a clear model to follow.

“Well I think it was a little bit easier for me [to learn the offense] because we had [the seniors] there,” Skelly said. “But everyone is learning a new role this year, so those guys don’t really have an example, so even though they are really talented players, just coming into a system without seeing seniors who are professionals at it—it is tough—but they have come a long way.”

Luckily, Team Co-Captain Ross Preston ’10 points out, the team enlisted the very knowledgeable ex-player and current Assistant Coach Dave Arsenault to help them.

“He is the only person in the world that has been exposed to the system this much who isn’t [Head Coach David Arsenault] and he also played in it,” Preston said. “Coach [Arsenault] would say Dave gets it better than he does. He is really good at giving specific feedback.”

Part of the team’s new identity involves a larger focus on defense and rebounding thanks to added height in numerous positions, partly due to their first year class.

“It is nice to have quite a bit of size with the first year group, a lot of those guys are versatile players,” Dave Arsenault said. “[The height] helps us out a lot defensively with our press, they can get their hands in passing lanes and take away things and grab rebounds that people who are a little bit shorter can’t.”

Despite the rough start though, the objective remains the same for the squad—and this weekend’s conference games are the best place to start.

“The goal for us this season is to win the [regular season] conference championship again,” Dave Arsenault said. “Although people might be questioning that right now with our record, I think this weekend is going to be a good test for where we are as a ball club.”

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