A month ago, the Johns Hopkins men's basketball team did not appear worthy of all the preseason accolades it had received. Not after the Blue Jays dropped three of four games, including an 87-73 shocker to Goucher, to stumble to a 4-3 start.
But a different team has emerged this month, and these Blue Jays look more like the team that received Top 10 mentions in several preseason Division III polls.
With three impressive victories last week, the Blue Jays have won seven straight and have improved to 11-3, 2-1 in the Centennial Conference. During the streak, Hopkins has repaired itself in all phases of the game.
Defense, long emphasized under coach Bill Nelson and assistant coach Bob McCone, has been the key. Through 14 games, Hopkins is limiting opponents to 59.4 points, mainly by forcing 15.6 turnovers a game and holding opponents to 38 percent shooting. The Blue Jays are also winning the battle on the boards, out-rebounding foes by an average of seven.
Offensively, Hopkins also has come on strong. Led by three players who are scoring in double figures -- guard Luke Busby (16.1), forward Lou Sabad (14.4) and center Frank Grzywacz (14.4) -- the Blue Jays are averaging 73.1 points.
Fine ball distribution by point guard Michael Rotay (3.5 assists, 1.9 turnovers) has been a spark for Hopkins, which has not missed many open shots. As a team, it is shooting 49.7 percent, with Grzywacz (67.8 percent) and Sabad (59.2) leading the way. And at the free-throw line, another customary strong point at Hopkins, the Blue Jays are hitting 75.7 percent of their shots.
Speaking of turnarounds, look at Mount St. Mary's.
Two weeks ago, the Mountaineers were 3-6, had lost six straight and were beginning to wonder when they would record their first Northeast Conference victory. Their offense was sputtering, still trying to make 50 percent of its shots in a game.
Not anymore. Led by the heady play of 6-foot-4, sophomore point guard Riley Inge, Mount St. Mary's has reversed its fortunes and could be ready for a run at the NEC title.
The Mountaineers have won three of their past four, the only loss an 85-84 heart-breaker on the last shot against Robert Morris, and they've shot over 50 percent in each game. Inge, who joined the roster Dec. 18 after spending two semesters gaining his academic eligibility, has been the catalyst.
In his past four games, Inge has averaged 16.0 points and 10.0 assists. He started the run with a school-record 15 assists against Robert Morris. He had 13 assists in Saturday's 110-92 victory at Long Island, the highest output in six years by a Mountaineer. Inge's passing helped five Mount St. Mary's players score in double figures for the first time this season. The Mountaineers shot a season-high 59.5 percent in that game.
With Inge at the controls, the Mountaineers aren't complaining much about their offense these days. Inge is averaging 14.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and a conference-high 6.2 assists.
Hopkins boosts Hagerstown JC
Bernard Hopkins (Overlea) continues to play well, and the Hagerstown Junior College basketball team continues to benefit from his presence.
Hagerstown is ranked 12th in the NJCAA Division I poll with a 12-2 record. The main reason for the Hawks' success is an offense that averages 103.6 points, third in the nation.
Hopkins, a 6-5 forward, is averaging 23.4 points, sixth-best in the country.
Field hockey honors
Amy Shubert and Katie Kauffman, two players who led the University of Maryland to the Division I field hockey championship last fall, have been named to the United States Elite Team.
Composed of the top 20 players in the nation, the U.S. Elite Team will participate in international games and national training camps over the winter while vying for positions on the 1994 World Cup team. The World Cup team will compete this summer in Dublin, Ireland.
Shubert, a senior midfielder, led the Terps with 12 assists, and was named Player of the Year in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Kauffman, a sophomore midfielder, scored six goals and was named to the All-ACC tournament team.
Maryland coach Missy Meharg was selected as an assistant on the Elite Team.