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If the book of the Columbia Claim Jumpers was started Friday night, the title would be: Rob Hoyt and the Subdued Seven.
After having 14 players show up the first day of practice, that number had dwindled to eight, and with Joe Joe Babineaux sidelined with an injury, Columbia has seven bodies.
And whether the situation is good or bad, those players act the same way they would if they were given, or lost a one-dollar bill. While the talent level is good, what key ingredient the Jumpers are obviously lacking is any sign of enthusiasm and passion.
That played a major factor in Columbia’s 74-64 loss to San Joaquin Delta College Friday night at Oak Pavilion.
“Right now we are getting an ‘F’ in communicating,” said head coach Rob Hoyt. “Our effort is fine and is good enough to win. But our energy isn’t anywhere near what it needs to be and our speaking isn’t anywhere where it needs to be. The energy that you carry as a team or individual, that carries over to your confidence. That carries over to your demeanor and that carries over to your body language and people can feed off of that.”
The mood the Jumpers was dampened 69 seconds into the game. Columbia’s star sophomore DeAndre Stallings was hit with two questionable calls and was forced to watch the early portions of the first half from the bench.
“It’s obviously not what you envision when you start a game,” Hoyt said. “I took him out, talked to him, he was composed and he understood that I was going to put him back in four or five minutes later. He knew that he was going to have to play smart, and he did.”
With Stallings off the floor, Delta jumped out to a 14-6 lead with 13 minutes remaining in the first half.
Freshman Ethan McLaurin drained a three with an assist from Jordan Windly to get the Jumpers moving in the right direction. Windley followed with a basket in the paint and sophomore Lewayne Grant brought the Columbia run to 7-0 after receiving a perfect backdoor pass from Ethan McLaurin.
After Delta stopped the run with a three, Stallings, who returned to the floor, responded with a three of his own and Columbia trailed 17-16.
The Mustangs added five unanswered points to take a seven-point lead. The lead didn’t last as Windley knocked down two free throws, Grant scored in traffic and Stallings hit a jumper.
With 5:35 remaining in the first half, Delta tried to score down low, but the shot was swatted away by freshman Eugene Harvey. Windley picked up the loose ball and sprinted up the floor. He passed to a trailing Eli McLaurin, who drained a three to give the Jumpers a 25-23 lead.
“That was the most spirit we showed all game and it started on the defensive end, which it typically does,” Hoyt said. “The end result was a three, which was well timed. I don’t know if it was a turning point, but it did get us back in the flow. That’s the team I envisioned.”
The lead didn’t stand and the Jumpers trailed 36-33 at halftime.
Whatever fight Columbia had to start the second half was quickly taken away with Delta’s 7-0 run. The Jumpers stayed close and cut the lead to 47-42 after Stallings drained a fade away three. However, Columbia could not get a much needed run like it had in the first half.
The Jumpers shot themselves in the foot all night from the free throw line. Columbia finished the night making 15 of 26 free throws. And in Hoyt’s mind, it all comes back to energy.
“I think that energy carries over into everything,” Hoyt said. “I know that at the free throw line, you are there by yourself. But our body language, as far as our energy because our effort is fine but that’s different than energy, our energy is caused from speaking and being vocal. And that has a lot to do with the free throws.”
Down 56-47 with 10 minutes to play, Eli McLaurin hit another deep 3 which cut the lead to six points. That would be the closest Columbia would get to Delta the rest of the night.
With time becoming a factor, the Jumpers seemed as if they were trying to do too much with the ball in their hands. More often than not a possession ended with a contested attempt with too much time left on the shot clock. Wasted possessions hurt the Jumpers down the stretch.
“We needed to share the ball more,” Hoyt said. “It was one or two passes and somebody would take a shot. Our intent was good, but we need to get more movement of the defense. We need the defense to move and to close out. We had trouble doing that tonight. I felt like we are starting to press and force things, instead of letting the offense come to us.”
The Jumpers tried to get back into the game by sending Delta to the line, but the Mustangs made 13 of 19 second half free throws.
Stallings ended the night as the game’s top scorer with 23 points and six rebounds. Windley had 11 and four assists. Grant scored 11. Harvey added nine and pulled down a team-high eight rebounds. Eli McLaurin had six points and six boards and Ethan McLaurin had four points and two rebounds.
Columbia finishes its preseason with five wins and six losses. With the preseason now complete, Hoyt and his seven Jumpers can now focus on Central Valley Conference play, which begins Wednesday against Reedley at Oak Pavilion.
“We are going to have to try to really focus singularly on Reedley right now,” Hoyt said. “And as soon as it’s over, win or loss, all our focus is on Sequoias. It is a new season and we need to play well. We are going to need guys to really rally around each other and hold each other accountable and mentally be engaged in what it takes to win moving forward.”
Contact Guy Dossi at (209) 588-4538 or email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at DossiGuy.