Staring at their second loss in a week, the T.C. Williams Titans are struggling to diagnose a malady largely unknown to a program known for its courtside clover.
After falling to W.T. Woodson 48-38 in a Tuesday night game dominated by the Cavaliers, the symptoms are clear. A porous defense and lackluster offense, combined with undisciplined play, have translated into two consecutive home losses for the Titans.
The players spoke candidly about what’s gone wrong in the Titans nascent, 3-2 season. Like any mysterious affliction, the trouble’s not in seeing the symptoms, but curing the underlying cause.
“We’ve got to go back to the basics,” said senior point guard Daquan Kerman. “We’ve just got to find out what’s wrong.”
Pressed for specifics and Kerman paused. It’s a lack of effort and focus, he said. Teammate Landon Moss agreed with Kerman’s assessment that hey need to come back focused and together as a team.
Beyond that, “I’m not sure,” Moss said, lowering his head. “I don’t know.”
That the Titans faced an uphill struggle this year was known long before the season’s first tipoff. Just three seniors returned from the previous year’s playoff-bound squad; experience and leadership were early worries for coach Julian King.
While the team roared off to a 3-0 start, the problems evident in their 51-50 loss to West Potomac a week ago spiraled out of control against the Cavaliers. Woodson came to play and fought for every basket, challenged T.C. on every possession and, ultimately, laid down a beating.
“They outworked us,” Moss said.
Coming to grips with the Titans first loss of the season a week ago, King said the squad’s response would define their team. The coach was less optimistic than normal after T.C.’s second loss.
“Bottom line, we don’t have any toughness, individually or as a team,” King said. “We’re not disciplined. We’re at a situation where we’re looking for answers.”
The Titans, struggling to come back from behind throughout the matchup with the Cavaliers, showed signs of life. Senior forward T.J. Huggins displayed a bit of the late game prowess made humdrum by last year’s team. He had racked up 15 points alone by the fourth quarter in the Patriot District battle.
But, five games in, it’s becoming evident this team is not even close to last year’s team, by King’s assessment.
“It’s just not enough,” he said. “[A year ago] we were able to hunker down and rebound. We had players who were tough enough, who believed in themselves.”
The Titans have until January 3, when they’re scheduled for a 7:45 p.m. road game against the Lee Lancers, to find an answer. This much is clear: Where last year’s team had the luxury of waiting to get going, this year’s team will have to scramble from the very beginning.
“We’ve got to come out and play, it’s as simple as that,” Kerman said. “We don’t have the team to slack off.”