MIAMI SHORES, Fla. – Sophomore forward Damien Dwaine stood outside the locker room door waiting.
It was symbolic of the entire Buccaneers men’s basketball team these days. All they’ve been doing is waiting. It’s been 18 days since Barry has played a game.
That waiting game ends 7:30 p.m. Friday when the Bucs (3-2) host NAIA No. 18 nationally-ranked St. Thomas (8-2) at Health & Sports Center.
“Very anxious to get playing again,” Dwaine said. “We can’t wait to play ’em. We can’t wait to get on the floor and show what we’ve been working on.”
Barry lost to St. Thomas in the first meeting, 53-51, in Miami Gardens Nov. 13. The Bucs made a season-low 15 field goals and scored the fewest points they’ve produced all season. Barry also shot 54.5 percent from the free throw line, going 18 of 33.
“Anytime you’re on the road playing against a team like St. Thomas, you can’t miss free throws,” Bucs assistant coach Ryan Saunders said.
The Buccaneers are shooting 71.5 percent from the free throw line this year. Dwaine has hit 88.9 percent of his shots, which ranks 44th in NCAA Division II. Senior swingman Bryan Van Cott and senior forward Aaron Martin are also shooting 80 percent or better from the stripe.
Barry turned the ball over 13 times in the first meeting with the Bobcats – a modest amount considering the Bucs gave away 24 possessions versus Stillman. But the Buccaneers were 3 of 18 from three-point range for a season-low 16.7 percent against St. Thomas.
“I thought our defense was pretty good in that game, and it’s going to have to be good again,” Saunders said. “We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well the first game. To their credit, they play physical. They out-tough their opponents.”
St. Thomas ranks 18th nationally in the NAIA in scoring defense (63.2). Barry ranks 36th in NCAA Division II (61.2). The Buccaneers are seventh in the nation in field goal percentage defense (37.0).
“It’s a big part of our team,” Dwaine said. “We know that defense is going to win us games. I think we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg to how well we can play defensively.”
St. Thomas’ Demonte Simpson, a 6-10 junior center who did not play against Barry in the first game, is averaging 14.9 points and nine rebounds per game while shooting 62.7 percent from the field. Junior guard Kevin Hincapie is averaging 13 points and 3.0 assists. Junior guard Floyd Battle (12.6 ppg), John Nunnally (10.9 ppg, 6.3 reb) and Dylan O’Sullivan (10.6 ppg) are also scoring in double figures.
Barry has four players averaging in double figures. Van Cott leads the Bucs in scoring at 14 ppg. Senior point guard Justin McCoy is averaging 11.8 ppg and 4.2 assists. Martin and senior guard Chad Renfro are both scoring 11 points per game.
“The shots are there. We’re taking the right shots,” Saunders said. “Guys just got to start knocking them down. You’ve got to have players that are man enough to go out there and make plays.
“I just don’t think we’ve had a game yet where everybody that’s going into the game has been on. On both ends of the floor, I don’t think we’ve had a complete game. We haven’t played a full 40 minutes of Barry basketball. We’re waiting for that.”
Saunders likened the layoff to a second preseason.
“Guys have gotten a feel for what it’s like, what the rotation is like,” he said. “The shots are starting to fall. Justin has to continue to run the team, take control of the team and get everyone involved.”
Barry shot 50.8 percent against Puerto Rico-Mayaguez in its best performance of the season. That’s the only game the Buccaneers have shot 50 percent this year.
“I see this break is what we need to get back to a higher shooting percentage,” Dwaine said. “Guys aren’t going to have classes to worry about for awhile, so that’s going to help us shoot the ball better.”
Watch the game on the Bucs Broadcast Network. Will Sanchez will handle the call.