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SPORTS: TAMIU men’s basketball season nears end, with mixed results

SPORTS: TAMIU men’s basketball season nears end, with mixed results

By Juan Carlos Puente
Editor-In-Chief
Published Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024

The men’s basketball season nears its end on Feb. 29 at Texas A&M–Kingsville. The Dustdevils’ current record, as of Feb. 20, is 15-10 overall, 11-8 in the Lone Star Conference, 11-2 at home and 4-8 away.

This half of the Texas A&M International University season began with mixed results in games against St. Edward’s University and St. Mary’s University. On Jan. 4, the men ultimately faced a “heartbreaking defeat,” as fans and players referred to it, with St. Edward’s ending on top at 62-61. After the team got riled up on Jan. 6 against St. Mary’s, the Dustdevils won at 73-70.

TAMIU basketball action
J.C. Puente | Bridge
TAMIU senior guard and forward John Achebe attempts a shot under the basket on Jan. 6 in the Kinesiology and Convocation Building gymnasium.

When the first game started, St. Edward’s began stacking up points against TAMIU. The Dustdevils were forced to react, rather than lead.

“We knew what they were going to do—we still just made careless mistakes,” point guard Mathew Okoye said. “We just had to tighten up and play like that for 40 minutes.”

While most teams would likely crack under pressure, the Dustdevils only seemed to become more precise and focused as the game went on. Okoye said this is because of the team’s mentality.

“We never give up,” Okoye said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re down 20 or up 50. We just never give up and play hard till the buzzer ends.”

Despite high spirits, the Dustdevils were unable to rise above the Hilltoppers. The men had one day to reflect and practice before stepping on the court again–this time against the Rattlers.

Okoye said the team prepared for St. Mary’s, which included watching footage of Rattlers’ plays, as well as focussing on defensive rotations and team communication. 

TAMIU began with explosive energy.

“The small things matter the most,” small forward and shooting guard Shannon Strickland Jr. said. “[We worked on things] like defense, help side, knowing the scouting report, knowing what the guys on the other side do the best. So, really just details.”

With a focus on defense, this strategy provided opportunities for the team to score, as well as a mid-game alley-oop, which riled up the crowd and helped team morale. Center Olaver Camacho performed the crowd-pleasing move, as well as nabbing 5 rebounds.

 “The assistant coaches help me a lot,” Camacho said. “I like to rebound but they also put that chip on me. Honestly whenever someone shoots the ball, I just stare at the basketball and try to go for the rebound.”

Power forward John Achebe was one of the players motivated by Camacho’s performance. Achebe, a consistent scorer on the court, said this about how things got more heated as the game went on.

“It gives us a lot of energy,” Camacho said. “At half time, we hit a three to tie it and the energy was down. We came in the second half pushing and transitioning, we got the oop and it gave us all the momentum we needed to win.”

With that win under their belt, they boosted up to second place in the conference as well as coming back from their previous loss. That game was followed by a plethora of out-of-town games, with a return to campus on Jan. 25.

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