BY CHAD DARE email@example.com
---- — DANVILLE — Danville Area Community College coach DaJuan Gouard is hopeful that his Jaguars get off the hypothetical seesaw.
In the first six games of his first season as head coach, Gouard is seeing his team struggled to find a consistent performance on both ends of the court.
Tuesday’s home opener against the Wabash Valley College Warriors was a prime example. DACC played exceptional defense, but the Jaguars shot just 31.5 percent, suffering a 72-65 setback at the Mary Miller Gymnasium.
“We struggled with putting the ball in the hole,’’ said Gouard, making his debut at home. “At the beginning of the season, we struggled with our offense. Then, we got better with that, and our defense started struggling.
“We spent the last week on defense and now our offense is struggling again. It’s the push-and-pull theory, where you get one thing working well and the other goes down, but I’m happy with our effort on defense.’’
Wabash Valley (5-2) came into Tuesday’s game averaging 83.8 points per game and the Warriors had just 32 at halftime.
“To hold them to 32 at halftime was excellent,’’ Gouard said. “And with the way we were shooting, to only be down eight (32-24) was because of that defense. We should have been down 20.’’
The Jaguars (1-5) made just 9-of-31 shots in the first half and freshman guard Joseph English had 12 of his team’s 24 points in the opening 20 minutes.
“We have to come together more as a team, and we have to find that momentum as a team to score,’’ he said.
In an effort to try and create more offensive opportunities in the second half, DACC extended its defense full court.
Wabash Valley turned the ball over 15 times in the second half and the Warriors were guilt of 26 turnovers in the game, but the Jaguars converted those extra opportunities into just 12 points.
“We did exactly what we wanted to do with our defense,’’ Gouard said. “We forced them into turnovers, and we would come down to either miss a layup or turn it back over.
“Against any team, you have to capitalize in those situations.’’
Not only did the Jaguars turn up the defensive pressure in the second half, they also hit the offensive glass.
DACC had 15 of its 20 offensive rebounds in the final 20 minutes, but once again, it was missed opportunities as the Jaguars had just 6 second-chance points off of those offensive rebounds. Included in that was a sequence late in the game when DACC had pulled within 69-65, a pair of missed shots from point-blank range and a turnover in the final minute sealed the victory for Wabash Valley.
“When you miss a point-blank layup, that just lets the air out of your team,’’ Gouard said. “We have to finish those layups.’’
English, who had a season-high 26 points on 9-of-13 shooting, admitted that was a pivotal stretch for DACC.
“We came out hard in the second half, but we need to play defense like that from the start of the game,’’ he said. “It’s hard to get over missed layups, but we need to do a better job with finishing.’’
Not only was Tuesday’s game the first home game for the Jaguars and Gouard, it was also the return to the Mary Miller Gymnasium for former DACC coach Mike Carpenter, who is in his first season at Wabash Valley.
“It was emotional to spend as much time as we did here and to work with those guys (Gouard, Rick Voyles and Pat Kelly) so closely on a daily basis,’’ Carpenter said. “I walked out and walked to the wrong bench. After that it kind of hit me.
“I’m glad to get it over with. I didn’t want this to be about me. It was about two good programs fighting for a win. I had some good memories here.’’
Carpenter credited his team’s defense for the victory.
“I thought we really guarded tonight, made them take tough shots,’’ he said. “They going to be a team to reckon with in the MWAC. We were lucky to come out of here with the win.’’
Former Danville High standout D’Lando Carter, playing his first home game, had just eight points. It was the first time this season he didn’t reach double figures.