SCHENECTADY — Off the top of his head, he wasn’t sure.
At one point, yes, Union College men’s basketball head coach Chris Murphy had been keeping track of how many days had passed since his team’s last game.
But, man, that was a long time ago.
“And once we got past December 1st,” Murphy said Thursday, “I lost count.”
Union started the season with a pair of wins in a span of five days, with the second of those wins an impressive 18-point victory against a St. John Fisher club ranked No. 25 in Division III at that time.
“To do that,” Union sophomore Mike Concannon said, “and then have to wait so long to play again, we’ve all just been itching to play.”
That game against St. John Fisher was played on Nov. 12, and Union will finally play its third game of the season 7:30 p.m. Friday at its home, Viniar Athletic Center, against Liberty League foe Clarkson.
Between game days, that’s 23 full days of waiting the Dutchmen have done. They took final exams during that stretch, practiced a ton and did the best they could to sustain the momentum they created for themselves with their winning start after producing a 10-14 record last season.
“It’s going to feel like a first game again,” junior Rhona Eseyade said of Friday’s matchup against Clarkson, a 2-3 squad whose head coach — Jeff Gorski — once coached alongside Murphy at Union under then-Dutchmen head coach Bob Montana.
Union was supposed to play last Sunday, but that game at Wesleyan was postponed to Jan. 28 because of the recent snowstorm. Friday’s game starts a three-games-in-five-days stretch for Union, which then breaks after that until it plays again on Dec. 28.
“We’ve been super-locked in,” Concannon said. “We’re ready to go.”
Union took some days off during its long break between games, but mostly used the time to keep improving ahead of league play. Along with regular practices, the program mixed into its schedule some scrimmage sessions and days where its players worked on individual skills. All along, Murphy said he preached to his players to keep a “consistent mentality” in their approach, and their success in terms of that left Murphy more optimistic regarding how this season could play out for the Dutchmen.
“And the biggest thing for our team right now is our chemistry,” Eseyade said. “We have very strong chemistry.”
There’s talent, too, and ample depth. While Concannon leads Union in scoring per game at 17.5 and junior Jackson Mannix is next up at 11.0, junior reserve Nate Freeman is the team’s third-leading scorer at 10.0 despite coming off the bench. In all, Union has eight players averaging at least 6.5 points per game this season.
“That depth is something we haven’t had,” said Murphy, who is in his seventh season leading Union.
With a smile and a shrug, Murphy admitted he’s “not completely sure” how his squad will look in the opening minutes against Clarkson after so much time away from game action. He’s confident, though, that his group won’t take long to find its rhythm.
“And,” Murphy said, “at this point, for us, we just want to get out there and compete against someone that’s not in maroon.”