In the first home game of the Tim Fusina era, the Yellow Jacket basketball team failed to get their new coach his first win.
Waynesburg dropped its third straight game if the season to the Fredonia State Blue Devils, 77-64.
Transfer-student Isaiah Alonzo started strong for the Jackets by scoring the first points of the game in a powerful putback, and the Jackets went on to play a strong first 10 minutes. At the 10 minute mark, Waynesburg led, 20-9.
They moved the ball efficiently on offense and found an open freshman, Ryan Felberg who hit back-to-back three-pointers. Felberg had to step up because of a depleted backcourt. Matt Popeck was out with a knee injury, and Frank Bozicevic got into foul trouble early on.
The absence of Popeck, who led Waynesburg in scoring last season, was noticeable, but for Fusina, it wasn’t an excuse.
“We may be losing our best player but now everybody’s role is a little bit more increased and we need to focus on what we need to do, so it hurt us but it’s not an excuse for what happened,.” Fusina said.
Defensively, the Jackets created turnovers which continued to lead to points with quick layups and shots in transition.
However, the game changed wildly once Alonzo’s physical style of play drew fouls, placing him in foul trouble. It led to substitutions, which seemed to shuffle up the Jacket’s effective start.
“It’s tough when a guy you’re counting on gets two quick fouls in the first half and you got to sit…It does hurt us but it’s not like we didn’t get production out of other guys,” first-year head coach Tim Fusina said.
Fusina saw his team struggling once the shots stopped falling.
“When you start to miss shots, sometimes that engagement on the other end diminishes and it can’t,” he said. ”It needs to become even better on the defensive end. I think we left our foot off the gas because we didn’t see the ball going in and that’s disappointing to me.”
Fredonia took advantage of the opportunity, closing out the first half with open shots and drives.
Waynesburg coughed up the ball 12 times.
“We had a couple of unforced turnovers we should’ve probably never had.” senior Brennan Smith, who led the Jackets with 20 points, said.
By halftime, Fredonia had fought its way to a 28-28 tie.
In the second half, the Blue Devils became the aggressors.
With Alonzo back on the court for 17 of the final 20 minutes, the Jackets still struggled defensively. Fredonia started the half on a 20-3 run. Leading the way for Fredonia was the backcourt of Dydy Bryan and De’Quan Smith, who each had 24 points.
“We weren’t able to guard the ball very well, they were able to touch the paint at will,” Fusina said.
Alonzo eventually fouled out late in the game.
Smith and classmate Frank Bozicevic tried to keep Waynesburg in the game through their offensive skills. The two combined for 30 of 64 points.
It wasn’t enough, however, as Waynesburg would remain winless.
In Smith’s eyes, there were some positives from the game despite the negative result
“The way we could come together sometimes when they were on a run [was encouraging],” Smith said.
For Fusina, the keys for Waynesburg’s 2 p.m. matchup at Kenyon Saturday are straightforward.
“Defending, keeping the ball out of the paint and blocking out,” he said. “Offensively, being disciplined enough to work for shots.
Despite the 0-3 start, Smith knows there is plenty of time for Waynesburg to turn things around.
“It’s not how you start but how you finish,” Smith said.