Mott freshman Daryl Bigham goes for two against Delta College Saturday afternoon. (Gerry Leslie photo)

Mott freshman Daryl Bigham goes for two against Delta College Saturday afternoon. (Gerry Leslie photo)

FLINT, Michigan — Mott Community College hadn’t lost back-to-back games since 2008. That all changed on Saturday afternoon, as Mott fell to Delta College, 59-55.  The Bears are now 11-6 on the season and on track for the program’s worst season since the Y2K scare.

The program’s long track record of success, unmatched at this level, makes back-to-back losses feel catastrophic. Perhaps fans shouldn’t blow it out of proportion, but this team is quickly becoming forgettable in the grand scheme of all things Mott. This is a program that could count conference home losses over a 10-year period on one hand (the same hand studded with four national championship rings).

I’m starting to think this is the curse of Ralph Eason. The Lions have Bobby Layne, the Red Sox have the Bambino and the Bears have Ralph. The program hasn’t been the same since he ended his career at Mott one year too soon.

There was actually a little positivity in the air prior to Saturday’s opening tip, as Mott finally dressed a full roster for the first time since early November. The Bears’ best guard, freshman Justice Green, returned to the lineup, albeit in a more limited role that he is accustomed to.

The Bears dressed 11 players including reserve forward Andrew Miller, who made his first appearance in the gold and black. It was all for not, however, as Delta appeared to be the better team throughout the contest, sustaining a late 10-2 run by the Bears, and holding on for the win.

“We had a full roster, but it hurt our chemistry,” Mott head coach Steve Schmidt told MRSN Radio after the game. “We’re going to continue to battle, because that’s what we do.”

This game was another example of something that has happened far too often in the last couple seasons: the team playing “Mott basketball” wasn’t Mott. Delta was more aggressive, played with more intensity and was much more physical.

Delta led almost the entire first half, but the Bears cut their lead to two at the break. Mott actually led by four midway through the second half and then again by one with three minutes left.

The biggest play in the game came with just 25 seconds left and the game knotted at 55. Delta’s Markell Bradshaw hoisted up a desperation 3-pointer as the shot clock expired that hit nothing but net. That sealed it for the Pioneers, who improved to 11-9 on the season. Bradshaw and Julian Henderson led Delta with 18 points apiece.

The only brights spots for Mott were forwards Daryl Bigham and Rod Milton. The pair combined for 31 points and 16 rebounds. Malik Young added 11 including three triples. As a team, the Bears shot a paltry 39 percent from the field.

There are too many games left on the schedule to completely write off this season. That said, we know enough about this team to temper our expectations. This is not a championship-caliber team, and certainly not one to intimidate even a middle-of-the-road opponent.

After the game, Schmidt said there’s no quit in the Mott Bears. One problem: these are not the Mott Bears of old. There’s plenty of quit in this team. There’s also a precious little care for the outcome of the game, something one cannot help but notice. If your fans care more than your players, there’s a big problem.

Four of Mott’s next five game are against teams with .500 or better records. Now would be a really good time to show the rest of the conference you belong.

The Bears have a quick turnaround before Monday night’s game on the road against St. Clair.

For better or worse, Saturday Steve Schmidt will turn in his final draft. Mott’s head coach told MRSN radio after Wednesday night’s 67-60 loss to Schoolcraft that Mott’s game versus Delta on Saturday will finally bring to a close a season full of uncertainty. The drafts, to this point, have been rough. Very rough.

“The next time you see this team, you’ll see what our team will be from here on out,” Schmidt said.

This, with little doubt, will go down as the veteran coach’s most physically and emotionally draining season of his distinguished caeer. Fortunately, there’s still time to turn it around.

Mott started the season with only 11 players and, due to issues off the court and in the classroom, have dressed between seven and nine players most nights. That’s about to change.

The Bears will add former Davison (MI) High School standout forward Andrew Miller to the roster this week and may round out the roster with a member of the school’s baseball team. The 6-foot-6 Miller scored double figures in 15 of his 21 games with the Cardinals as a senior.

Schmidt added that he hopes his star point guard, Justice Green, will handle his business in the classroom and return to the team this week. The Bears need him desperately if they are going to circle the wagons.

Against Schoolcraft, Mott played a miserable first half. For long stretches, the Bears simply couldn’t buy a basket and trailed by 13 at the half.

A different team came out of the locker room in the second, as the Bears shot 56 percent as a team and actually cut the Ocelets’ lead to four midway through the half. The Bears failed to get stops on a consistent basis in the game’s final minutes and finally succumbed to a better team.

“That’s a really good team, a tough team to play on the road,” Schmidt said. “But we competed. I’m proud of the way our guys competed, especially in the second half.”

The Ocelets (16-3) currently hold the best record in the MCCAA.

Mott (11-5) was led by Daryl Bigham’s 21 points and four rebounds. Darryl LeVert added 10 points and 10 rebounds.

The Bears will return to action at 3 p.m. on Saturday against a Delta squad fresh off a one-point loss against Oakland.

Things didn’t start as planned on Wednesday night for the no. 17-ranked Bears at home. Mott didn’t score a two-point basket until five minutes into the game against longtime rival Henry Ford Community College. Fortunately, by that point, freshman guard Malik Young had already connected on his first three 3-point attempts.

Young was the lone bright spot in the first half as the Bears trailed early, clawed back to lead by one at the break, and clipped the Hawks’ wings in the second half to win, 73-54.

“It was a little ugly there at first,” Schmidt told MRSN radio after the game. “But wins are pretty.”

The Bears (11-4) didn’t wrestle away the led from the hawks until a 3-pointer by sophomore Darryl Levert with a minute left in the half gave Mott their one-point lead.The second half was a bloodbath for Henry Ford. Mott completely demoralized the undermanned Hawks, who came into the game with only five players. Both teams were shorthanded, due to injuries, illnesses and academic shortcomings. Mott dressed eight players, an upgrade from the team’s seven-man outing on Saturday afternoon at Oakland.”It’s a weird thing that’s going on in college athletics right now,” Schmidt said. “There’s no excuse for us to have only eight players; there’s no excuse for them just to have just five. We all have to do better.”

The Bears completely wore down the Hawks in the second half, extending their lead to 14 on a triple by Tommie Johnson just nine minutes into the half. Six minutes later, the Bears led by 23 after a basket in the lane by freshman Rod Milton.

The win Wednesday night was just what the doctor ordered, as the Bears now have a week to get healthy for the showdown versus Schoolcraft College. The Ocelets currently have the best overall record in the league at 13-3. There’s a great deal of parity in the league this year, so don’t count out the Bears just yet.

“Coming off a tough loss, we needed a win,” Schmidt said. “We’re going to bounce back and start playing Mott basketball.”

Daryl Bigham once again led Mott (11-4) in scoring with 21 points. Milton added 16.

The game versus Schoolcraft will be on the road next Wednesday night.

You can listen to the game live on MRSN.us starting at 7:30 p.m.

Hopes were high as Mott returned to action on Saturday afternoon against rival Oakland with the team’s best forward, Daryl Bigham, back in the lineup. The freshman from Detroit missed the last two games (both wins) after getting suspended for committing a flagrant foul in an overtime loss to Owens last month.

With a full roster, the Bears were primed to make another statement against one of the top teams in the MCCAA. As it turned out, it was another disappointing turn of events as Oakland knocked off Mott, 81-73. The loss is the Bears’ first of the conference season.

The Bears played the game without their top guard, freshman Justice Green and freshman forward Tommie Johnson. Mott’s remaining guards, Malik Young and Austin Daniels, drew two fouls apiece in the half and the third, Ray Ray Lewis, was injured. Even so, Mott trailed by only three at the half after a less-than-stellar 20 minutes for either team.

Lewis managed to return early in the second half after Daniels drew his third foul, but the damage was done. The Bears trailed by 13 and head coach Steve Schmidt simply didn’t have the troops to forge a comeback. Oakland went on a 21-9 run to start the second and led by as many as 16 in the half.

The Bears didn’t thrown in the towel, however; they made a run late in the half. A jumper by Lewis inside of six minutes left in the game cut Oakland’s lead to eight. Mott cut the lead to as few as six before Oakland once again rose to the occasion with timely baskets in the paint and second chance points.

After the game, Mott head coach Steve Schmidt told MRSN radio that he was pleased with the effort of most of his players against a good team in a tough environment.

“We showed a lot of heart with only seven guys available today,” he said. “I thought we played our hearts out. It hurts not having a couple kids, but that’s the situation we put ourselves in … we will battle back.”

Mott had a couple notable players struggle in the game. Young did not score in the game. Freshman forward Darryl LeVert scored seven but failed to score in the second half.

Bigham led all scorers with 32 points and 15 rebounds in his return to the team. Small forward Rod Milton added 20.

The status of Green and Johnson is still up in the air, but obviously Mott needs them back as soon as possible to stay in the hunt for the conference championship.

Mott returns to action at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday night at home versus Henry Ford CC. The rematch with Oakland comes Saturday, February 7 at Ballenger Fieldhouse.

No. 14-ranked Mott scores victory over Wayne County, 73-58

Posted: January 7, 2015 by Jared Field in JUCO, Mott
Mott freshman Justice Green scores two of his game-high 17 points Wednesday night in a win over Wayne County. (Gerry Leslie photo)

Mott freshman Justice Green scores two of his game-high 17 points Wednesday night in a win over Wayne County. (Gerry Leslie photo)

FLINT, Michigan — No Bigham, no big deal.

No. 14-ranked Mott scored a huge 73-58 victory over Wayne County Wednesday night despite losing the services of their best forward, Darryl Bigham, to suspension. Bigham had to sit out after earning a flagrant (2) foul in the overtime loss to Owens on December 29 (he also sat out Mott’s road win over Alpena Monday night). Mott dressed eight players. Wayne County dressed 17.

The teams went back and forth in a first half that produced four ties and 20 (not a typo) lead changes. The Bears led by a single point at the half despite a mere two points out of 6-7 sophomore forward Darryl LeVert. LeVert struggled all game to get position in the post against Wayne’s stronger, more physical frontline.

The stage was set for high drama in the second half, but it never came to fruition. After a brief battle, Mott scored 25 of the game’s next 36 points to extend their lead to double-figures. The Bears led by as many as 17 in the half and cruised to victory.

Freshman point guard Justice Green turned in an excellent all-around performance for Mott with 17 points, six assists and three steals. His did his best John Taylor impression, scoring on some very low-percentage shots in the lane. Rod Milton added 12 points and five rebounds. LeVert and Tommie Johnson added 10 apiece.

Ashton Curd led Wayne with 15 points. The Wildcats fall to 8-5 on the season, but are still considered among the top teams in the MCCAA Eastern Conference.

Mott improves to 10-3 on the season ahead of Saturday’s showdown on the road against Oakland.

Under the circumstances, this was a huge win for the Bears. Without Bigham, this was a textbook trap game for the Bears. Kudos to head coach Steve Schmidt and his staff for having this team ready to play. It’s still early, but this team truly controls its own destiny in the MCCAA Eastern Conference. A win on Saturday would go a long way toward getting this program back in the championship conversation.

Mott freshman Justice Green scored 13 points Tuesday night at home against Owens.

Mott freshman Justice Green scored 13 points Tuesday night at home against Owens.

FLINT, Michigan — The basketball fans leaving Ballenger Fieldhouse Tuesday night looking stoic, if not stunned, have been around awhile. To those folks who have followed Mott during its rise to prominence and subsequent reign as one of the nation’s top JUCO programs, home losses are exceptionally rare.

No. 9-ranked Mott suffered its first home loss in nearly three years, 94-87, at the hands of Owens (Ohio). The Express swept the season series with Mott, winning both in extra time.

Mott led by eight points at the half and by as many as 12 in the second half before the Express ran off 13 of the game’s next 17 points. In the end, the Bears could not overcome the offensive onslaught of Owens’ 5-7 sophomore guard Shaakir Lindsey, who scored 21 of his game-high 26 points in the second half.

After a 3-pointer by Lindsey with just less than two minutes to go in half, Mott’s Daryl Bigham swished two free throws to tie the game at 83. The Bears looked to be in prime position to win the game after Owens’ forward Austin Somerfield missed a bunny in the paint. On the ensuing possession, the Bears turned it over, got it right back, and promptly gave it away once again.

After another miss by Owens, the Bears had possession with 14.5 seconds left and called a timeout. Owens knocked the ball out of bounds with five seconds left. Mott guard Austin Daniels was then smothered by a double team and forced to call a timeout with 1.8 seconds left. Bigham caught the inbounds pass from Daniels, took two dribbles, and had his shot partially blocked.

The overtime period was a comedy of errors for the Bears on the defensive end. Lindsey could not be stopped in the lane or on the perimeter. The icing on the cake was the flagrant foul issued to Bigham for throwing an Owens player to the floor with less than 30 seconds left in the frame. Bigham was escorted to the locker room and the fans headed for the exit.

Owens, coached by former University of Toledo and Mott assistant Dave Clarke, put six players in double figures led by Lindsey.

Bigham led Mott with 25 points and eight rebounds. Freshman Malik Young had 15 and Levert and Justice Green added 13 apiece.

The Bears (8-3) will likely bounce back on the road at Alpena on Saturday before two games against Wayne and Oakland. If tonight’s effort is any indication, the Bears are fully capable of losing both.

Game Notes

• For the first time since I’ve covered this program, it’s officially (at least in my mind), the dreaded “rebuilding year” for the Bears. Amazingly, I’ve given up the ghost on Mott’s championship aspirations before New Year’s Day. This team just doesn’t have it. They have a precious little in common with Mott’s championship teams of the past. The Bears have nine players left on the roster and only one guy who plays hard all the time (if you go to the games you know who he is).

• Among a litany of problems for this team, one stands out: Mott doesn’t have a single guard who can defend, who cares to defend, or both. Mott’s championship teams have always had at least one guard (sometimes more) who took pride in wearing the “stopper” moniker. In the past, it would have been unthinkable for a 5-7 guard to shred the Bears in any game — least of all a meaningful one at home. This was a problem last season and it’s getting worse.

• It’s not all on the guards, though. On the frontline, Mott has more matadors than bulls. The Express shot 67 percent from the field in the first half. That’s great for them, but truly an embarrassing stat for Mott. It wasn’t just one of those hot-shooting nights for Owens, either. Mott was gifting them high-percentage shots in close, not closing out on shooters and fouling in the paint like they were playing flag football.

• With little doubt, this is going to be the most arduous season for Mott head coach Steve Schmidt. He has seen so many highs in his career and very few lows. This season, barring a circling of the wagons that would impress the Buffalo Bills, is going to be one of those low points. He’s the man for the job, but it might be asking too much even for a hall of famer.

• On a positive note, Bigham was a beast for long stretches of this game on the offensive end. He scored the team’s first eight points in the second half. He’s long-armed, athletic and not afraid of contact around the basket. He had a nasty tip-dunk in the first half. He’s not consistent, though, so I guess I don’t get to end on a positive note after all.

Last month I wrote that, if Mott made it through its brutal December schedule with a record of 4-2, it would be a job well done. After Wednesday’s night 62-55 road win over Kalamazoo Valley, the Bears are just a home victory over Owens away from meeting the mark.

The Bears (8-2) led KVCC (5-8) by two at the half and held on for the win. Don’t let KVCC’s record fool you. This team’s schedule was front-loaded with high-end competition against big programs. KVCC has scored wins over Wayne County and St. Clair this season. This team has talent and always presents a challenge at their place.

The Bears were led by freshman Justice Green, who scored 23 points with a season-high eight steals.

Mott played the game without the services of Darryl Bigham, Amariontez Ivory-Thomas and Joseph Stamps. Head coach Steve Schmidt is still trying to separate the men from the boys on this squad, so fans will probably continue to see movement with the roster from game to game.

Mott will look for revenge on Dec. 30 at home versus Owens. The Bears lost to the Express on the road earlier this month in double overtime.