MOUNT CARMEL -- A poor shooting night overshadowed what was to be a celebration in Wabash Valley College's men's basketball home opener, with the newlook Spencer Sportscenter unveiled with the state of the art video boards making their debut.
Alas, the cold shooting didn't allow the Warriors to build much offensive rhythm and as a result they fell 81-60 to Highland Community College on Friday night in Wabash Valley.
Their shooting woes were apparent out of the gate, as the Warriors (1-3) just couldn't seem to buy a bucket.
Surely it wasn't ideal that the Warriors continued to spray three-pointers despite the cold shooting night, but they just seemed a little passive in their pursuit of the basket of finding gaps to the basket in the Highland defense, and instead settling from the perimeter.
Fortunately Highland endured some early shooting woes of their own, as they led the Warriors just 13-10 after 10 minutes of action. After that though, it'd be all Highland.
The Scotties pieced together an 11-0 run, increasing their lead to as much as 15 in the waning minutes of the first half.
Freshman stretch four Darius Osborne did his part in staving off the Scotties from blowing the game wide open. Osborne scored nine straight points for the Warriors, on all three-pointers to keep the deficit within striking distance.
All the while, Highland managed to enter the break with a 37-25 halftime lead. The Warriors had shot 31.3 percent from the field in the first half, including 5 of 21 (23.8 percent) from behind the arc, less than ideal numbers that orchestrate their shooting woes.
Perhaps the highlight of the night was Wabash Valley showcasing their ability with the new ScoreVison scoreboards by showing the upcoming Star Wars movie, "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker." Fans had their phones out to record just how cool the moment was, which offered a glimpse of the capabilities of the new scoreboards. Though they didn't showcase it tonight, they'll eventually have pregame warmup videos, instant replay, live video of the game on the scoreboard, as well as fan interactions.
They had hoped to bridge the gap to singles digits, but Highland had steadily increased their lead. Highland's second half lead would reach as high as 24 en route to the victory.
One headline, the return of Marcus Garrett. The Warriors redshirt sophomore played in his first home contest in two years, as the sophomore guard missed all of last season with a torn ACL. Garrett scored six points and six boards in his opener.
Wabash Valley College Head Men's Basketball Coach Mike Carpenter said Garrett seemed to be forcing it a little, but that's certainly understandable, as he's still finding his legs in his return to the court.
"When he starts to force things it snowballs and we've already had that discussion in the locker room and he knows it," Carpenter spoke of Garrett. "He's been off for a year, has a lot of weight on his shoulders and he's got to let the game come to him and take what they give him rather than force stuff, because that's not his game."
For the game the Scotties shot 51.6 percent as a team, including 62.2 percent from two. Wabash Valley's interior defense struggled to contain Highland's offense which did an exceptional job of passing block-to-block in the post, but Carpenter credited Highland's offensive system for that. He made an adjustment to try to switch to zone to remedy it, but the Warriors are still familiarizing themselves with zone, so naturally it wasn't as stellar as it eventually could be.
Perhaps most staggering outside of the shooting disparity was the rebounding numbers. Highland outrebounded Wabash Valley 43-30 in the game. The Warriors are rarely beat on the glass, nevertheless by 13.
"They're big and we knew we were going to have to win the rebounding battle," Carpenter said. "I'm never one to pick on people, we just have too many guys not stepping up right now. It's their opportunity, experienced guys, returning guys, transfers, whatever. They're not performing like they're supposed to, I'll just leave it at that. A lot of it was in the zone, we haven't used the zone yet, we worked on it for two days. I didn't want to use it tonight to be honest because I didn't feel like we were ready to use it but we had to, they were just carving us up. We just looked a step slow all night."
Osborne led the Warriors with 16 points in 24 minutes of action, while also adding four boards and posting a team-best four three-pointers. He was the only Warrior in double-figures scoring.
"Darius has earned a lot of minutes," Carpenter spoke of Osborne. "He came in and saved us at Danville too, a couple of big rebounds, big putbacks. He's going to continue to get better, [keep] putting weight on and getting stronger."
"Elijah Hicks came in and did a nice job tonight, hadn't played much and he's a kid who if he keeps learning and listening he's going to get a lot better. With that being said we've got some older guys, some returning guys, some transfers who aren't pulling their weight right now and their minutes are going to go down. That's just the way it works."
As a team the Warriors shot 34.8 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from deep. Although the Warriors are very much so a perimeter-oriented team right now, they'll have to understand the necessity of attacking the basket when shots aren't falling from deep. Carpenter knows they'll shoot their share of threes this year, but also wants them to be assertive in attacking the basket to avoid becoming one-dimensional.
"I'm ok with shooting in the 20s as long as they're falling," Carpenter said. "We're going to have nights where they're going in and we look like the best offensive team in junior college basketball. When you have an offense like this you're going to have that, but when they're not falling you're going to look really bad and tonight we proved that."
Now, Wabash Valley falls to 1-3 on the season, an unexpected record though against a tough early season slate.
Fortunately they'll get just what the doctor ordered, 12 days off between this game and their next game on Nov. 20 against Olney Central, as well as two straight home games to assist in righting the ship and building up this team's confidence.
HCC -- 39 42 -- 81
WVC -- 27 33 -- 60