Mount St. Mary's coach Jamion Christian wasted little time getting into his postgame interview Thursday night.
He needed little time to assess the Mountaineers' breakdowns in the final stages of a 52-50 loss to Wagner.
"We didn't have enough answers," Christian said. "A lot of questions."
Yep, lots of them. Can the Mount defend the interior? Not particularly well. Can the Mountaineers (7-11, 2-5 Northeast) score with any consistency in a halfcourt set? Only when outside shots are falling.
And can the Mount finish out a top-half-of-the-league team after scratching out an eight-point lead in the second half?
Not based on Thursday.
Of course, this wasn't a team expected to finish in the top half of its league, and it installed an up-tempo system for a roster recruited to play in more plodding fashion. The Mountaineers did reasonably well in November and December, but they're hardly a finished product and some setbacks are to be expected.
On the flip side, the Mount nearly knocked off Bryant and Wagner on back-to-back Thursday. Instead, they lost those games by a combined three points.
"I see improvement in this team every day and every practice," guard Julian Norfleet said. "We're right there. If we can just fine-tune a couple things, we'll be fine."
This positions Mount St. Mary's in an interesting spot a little more than a third of the way through league play. Yes, there are many questions, but the biggest is whether the Mountaineers can finish in the top eight of the NEC and continue its season in the conference tournament.
Thursday suggested it was possible, even as the Mountaineers managed only one basket in the final 3:53. Making a serious run at a conference title probably is a year (at minimum) away. A league tournament appearance, though, is plausible.
But that will take more precision, more efficiency and lot fewer questions over the next 11 games.
"I think I really base it on the fact we're losing them," Christian said. "We're losing them in different ways. Clearly, we didn't execute well in the last two minutes. We got a little tight and guys started to toss the ball around. You can't use all your timeouts to settle it down. You have to have enough resolve to really settle your group down. We're still searching to find that. I think when we find that --- and I think we will; it's all a learning process. I think when we find that, we'll be pretty good because we're in the game."
--- Patrick Stevens