In the Zone: Winter teams can ill afford injuries

Men’s basketball needed two overtimes to gut out a win on the road. Women’s hoops dropped a 48-46 home game, a nail biter where the final two minutes of game time dragged out to 15 minutes in real time. The wrestling team hosted three wrestling matches, one against defending national champion Penn State, in 24 hours.

 

Last week’s whirlwind proved two things for UVU’s winter teams:

– they have a flare for dramatics

– they better hope their starters stay healthy

 

The former is entertaining. The latter is the glass floor they can only hope holds up for the remainder of the season.

 

The winter teams aren’t as fortunate as their fall counterparts. Volleyball and soccer boasted enough dependable depth to get through injuries, although a major one did end up costing volleyball in the GWC championship match.

 

The basketball and wrestling teams are a different matter.

 

In last week’s men’s thriller, Alfonzo Hubbard was the only reserve to play double-digit minutes despite the game extending two extra periods. This is nothing new to the Wolverines, but it’s also concerning. Up until now they’ve been fortunate that leading scorer Isiah Williams’ back has held up, that Geddes Robinson and Ben Aird haven’t suffered injuries despite being the only two post players head coach Dick Hunsaker can count on.

 

All three played 40-plus minutes in Thursday’s game, with Williams logging a whopping 48 minutes – and sitting just two.

 

It’s clear Hunsaker is set on this six-man rotation, making (the lack of) injuries a more important factor than ever.

 

Ditto for women’s basketball. Forward Sammie Jensen is a near-guaranteed double-double, and center Erika Newbold has established herself as a defensive presence.

 

Beyond those two, production in any form is a matter of musical chairs, with players logging major minutes and numbers one night and being all but invisible the next.

 

A healthy Jensen has allowed the Wolverines to tread water. An injury to her (or Newbold) could see them sink.

 

As for wrestling, head coach Greg Williams needs no reminder as to the omnipresent possibility of season-altering injuries. Josh Wilson (149 pounds) is in the middle of a career year – after sitting out the entire 2009-10 season with a knee injury. Sophomore 174-pounder Monte Schmalhaus also missed time with injury in 2009-10.

 

Problem is, most of Williams’ options are true freshmen, most of them redshirting this season. A blow to any of his few veterans would be a blow to the rest of the season.

 

And while Williams wasn’t shy about labeling this year the start of a “rebuilding phase,” neither he nor his athletes are willing to use such a label as a crutch – making it all the more vital that none of his athletes, or the basketball teams’, end up needing crutches.

By Matt Petersen

Leave a Reply