Louis Meyer, Sports Editor
St. Louis, Mo.– University of Missouri–St. Louis Men’s basketball coach Bob Sundvold entered the 2018-19 season, his sixth season as head coach, with something to prove. Through his first five seasons at UMSL, Sundvold has an overall record of 72-70 (.507). His most successful season came during the 2014-15 season, where he guided the Tritons to a 19-11 (.633) overall record. Last year however, the Tritons finished the season an overall record of just 14-13 (.519). Coach Sundvold was not deterred by the season, but rather excited for what was to come next year.
“I think last year was a learning year. We added 11 new guys to the team, so we had to mature and come together as a group,” said Sundvold.
Johnathan Matthews, senior, communications, echoed Sundvold and mentioned the recruiting process. “Coach has done a great job recruiting. He brought in a bunch of guys last year that were eager to learn and get better,” said Matthews.
With his 11 youngsters, led by his two seniors, Sundvold was ready to prove the Tritons were a force to be reckoned with. The proof is in their record, 18-6 (.750). The Tritons are enjoying their best start to a season since the 1971-72 season. Not even Bob Bone, who is considered the best to ever don an UMSL uniform, enjoyed this good of a start.
When asked what he thinks the keys to the Tritons’ success have been, Sundvold said, “It’s our overall play. We are playing well defensively, rebounding, taking care of the ball, and hitting our shots.”
Eric Dust, senior, marketing, credits the senior leadership and the younger guys willingness to learn and adapt. “I think Bobo [Matthews] and I have really stepped up as the senior leaders of this team. I also think all our young guys have done a good job listening to us. They are buying into this program and it is paying off for us down the stretch.”
Despite a two-game losing streak, the Tritons have still won seven of their last 10. Coach Sundvold credits his players for making it happen. “I think the difference with this year’s team is that they are making their own breaks and getting it done on game day and in practice,” said Sundvold.
With the historic start to the season under their belts, the Tritons are looking for more, say a conference championship perhaps. It would be the first for both coach Sundvold and UMSL Men’s Basketball. Standing in their way, however, is ninth-ranked Bellarmine. Not only is Bellarmine (19-3, GLVC 10-3) ranked as the ninth best Division 2 school in the country, they are also the best team in the conference, and the defending conference champions. The Tritons have played Bellarmine once this season already, falling by a score of 53-66.
When asked what they needed to do differently to beat Bellarmine in a possible conference tournament game Sundvold said, “I think we just need to play our game. I think when we played them the first time, we played a great game and just came up a little short.” Matthews added, “We can definitely beat them. We were unlucky last time we played them. We weren’t hitting our shots and they were hitting some pretty crazy shots. If we meet again, I’m confident we have what it takes to win.”
Even if the Tritons come up short in the conference tournament, there is a strong chance that they could still make the national tournament. In fact, many have called UMSL an “underdog or sleeper team.” When asked if the team embraces that role, Dust said, “I mean we really don’t think about it to be honest. We know that we’ve done some great things, but I think I speak for everyone when I say we’re all focused on the next game and not potential games a month down the road.”
Regardless of where they end up in March, no one can take away what the UMSL Men’s Basketball team has accomplished so far this season. Coach Sundvold and his team had something to prove this season and rest assured, they are doing just that.