For one reason or another, the season didn’t start very well.
"We were preseason ranked 12th in the country and we were unanimously picked to win the KCAC," Coach Bishop said. "I don’t think it really got to our heads, but we’ve never been in that position before... and we took everybody’s best shot, because everybody’s scouting report had 'Hey, they’re the 12th ranked team in the country.'"
It wasn't just the opposition's best shot that saw the Spires open the year with a 2-5 record, though, Bishop added.
"We found ways to lose games. And it’s not like we didn’t play real well. We actually played pretty good. We just found ways to lose games at the end... and we kind of had to look in the mirror and figure out who we were and what was going to happen with the rest of the season."
Coach Bishop strategizes with the team shortly before tip-off of the USM NAIA tourney game.
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The turnaround — ultimately leading to the nation's longest winning streak (13) and the Spires winning 22 games — started with KCAC conference play.
"I think for the first time, our pre-conference schedule really prepared us and helped us prepare for the KCAC season," Coach Bishop said. "We really played the same type of schedule as before, but we had been so successful in those earlier games that when we got into KCAC action, we weren’t as focused.
"This year, being 2-5 and going into KCAC play, our staff really had (the players') attention. We had a meeting and a 5 a.m. practice and I think we really got their attention."
The secret? "We really had to focus and figure out that 'hey, we’re good enough. We just have to play better,'" Coach Bishop said.
Conference play started, and the Spires reeled off four straight wins going into Christmas Break — a perfect 4-0 confernce record for the first quarter of the season.
USM's 2012-2013 KCAC Results
Nov. 29 @ Bethel W 82-76
Dec. 1 @ Friends W 75-43
Dec. 6 vs. Kansas Wesleyan W 81-79
Dec. 8 vs. Sterling W 67-59
Jan. 3 @ McPherson W 87-73
Jan. 5 vs. Bethany W 80-79
Jan. 10 vs. Tabor W 88-76
Jan. 12 @ Ottawa W 87-47
Jan. 16 @ Southwester W 70-61
Jan. 19 vs. Bethel W 93-71
Jan. 23 vs. Friends W 71-57
Jan. 26 @ Kansas Wesleyan W 83-79
Jan. 21 @ Sterling L 88-71
Feb. 2 vs. McPherson W 72-60
Feb. 7 @ Bethany W 81-77
Feb. 9 @ Tabor L 77-75
Feb. 14 vs. Ottawa W 74-59
Feb. 16 vs. Southwestern W 86-74
Conference Record: 16-2
The Spires locked up the KCAC regular season title with a 74-59 victory over Ottawa in Ryan Sports Center on Valentine's Day.
"It was great, it was everything we’ve worked for, and we’ve been close before," Coach Bishop said. "I’ll make no bones about it: It was something that we talked about from day one, and I wouldn’t have talked about that if the expectations weren’t reachable and weren’t realistic.
"It’s something they’ll remember for a long, long time."
One of the season's goals was taken care of. The other was yet to come.