The Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks entered the 2015-16 riding the high of last season’s successes. Coming off 18 wins and an appearance in the 2015 CollegeInsider.Com Tournament, the Hawks were out to prove that last year’s successful run was no fluke.
The 2015-16 season hasn’t started as planned for the Hawks. Through three games, all of which have been on the road, UMES has opened the season with an 0 – 3 record. They have taken on tough opponents, in Kansas State, Missouri, and Wofford, but they played all three teams tough and gave themselves a chance to win.
While the record may not be that positive, the team has had its fair share of positives that they can build off as they move forwards.
1. Bakari Copeland is Emerging as a Star for the Hawks
One of the top newcomers for the Hawks this season has been forward Bakari Copeland. The 6’6” junior played one season with Charleston Southern, back in the 2013-14 season, and this is first of two years of eligibility with UMES.
In his first three games, Copeland is tied for the team-lead with Devin Martin with 13.0 points per contest. He’s also averaging 6.3 rebounds per game. Copeland has shown flashes of being able to stretch the floor with his shooting ability, and has been effective from the free throw line (77.8%).
The play of Copeland has been a pleasant surprise for the Hawks to open the year. He has scored in double-figures twice, and is developing into a go-top scoring option up front. Alongside Dominique Elliott, the Hawks have a strong forward tandem. Copeland’s ability to stretch the floor adds another dimension to the offense, and will open things up inside for Elliott or for the guards outside. It will also force defenders to always know where he is on the floor, causing more one-on-one match-ups elsewhere on the floor.
2. Dominique Elliott is Finding his Groove in the Paint
After just one season with the Hawks, big man Dominique Elliott entered the 2015-16 season with a ton of respect from around the MEAC, and the NCAA as a whole. He was a Preseason All-MEAC First Team selection, despite just averaging 7.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game last season.
With a ton of hype surrounding his play this season, a sluggish start to the year was to be expected. Through the Hawks’ first two games, Elliott recorded a combined 9 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 fouls in just 26 minutes of floor time. For a player of his calibre and size, the numbers weren’t a good representation of what he is capable of doing on a nightly basis.
Against the Wofford Terriers on Saturday, the 6’8”, 250-pound forward appeared to have found his groove. In 29 minutes, Elliott stayed out of foul trouble (2) and put up his best performance of the season, putting together a stat line of 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 block. He is now averaging 9.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.
Elliott is a big piece to the puzzle for Coach Collins and the Hawks this season. UMES is hoping to replicate the performance from last season, and will need Elliott to be an impact player in the paint. He has the size to be a tough body to defend in the low-post, and he has the skill set and length to come up big in terms of rebounding. The game against the Terriers could be his coming-out party for his senior season, and he could be poised for a run of big performances over the next couple of weeks.
3. Hawks Keep the Opening Half Close
Despite three straight losses to open the season, all by double-digit margins, the Hawks have played strong basketball to kick-start each game. Playing three tough road contests, many would think that the Hawks were overpowered from start to finish in their three losses, due solely to the fact that they were double-digit losses.
That was not the case.
To open the season, the Hawks were down by double-figures to Kansas State after the first half, but they wouldn’t go away. Against Missouri, the Hawks trailed by just 2 at the break, and they trailed by just 1 against Wofford last time out. Maryland-Eastern Shore has put themselves in a position to make a second-half run with strong starts, but have faded in the final 20 minutes.
If the Hawks can play a complete 40-minutes in their next two games, both on their home floor, they could get on the right track and notch a pair of wins before they go back on the road.
The next two game for the Hawks are two of just three home games in their non-conference slate. They welcome both Fairfield and St. Francis (PA) to Hytche Arena, and will have two great opportunities to notch their first win of the year.
All is not lost for the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks in 2015-16. Last season, they started the year with a 1 – 6 record before finishing at 18 – 15 overall.
Here’s to hoping it’s another repeat performance this time around.