KCC shake off sluggish start to go 2nd in league

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KCC shake off sluggish start to go 2nd in league

Despite last year’s title-winning efforts, KCC Egis had a disappointing early season. But they now appear to have shaken off their listless start and are currently riding an impressive wave of momentum.

On Tuesday, the team manhandled LG Sakers to a 95-66 win for their fourth consecutive victory. The 29 point loss was the biggest for the previously second-place Sakers this season. LG had gotten off to a surprisingly strong start this season and was holding second place in the league standings, but the defeat now leaves them trailing KCC.

KCC currently holds a record of seven wins and four losses and trails the league-leading KT Sonic Boom by a game. The leading catalysts for KCC’s surge in the standings are Ha Seung-jin and Kang Byung-hyun. The two big men played a crucial role in the championship winning season last year and have combined to provide the Egis with a formidable threat in the low post.

Kang struggled to start the season and the low point came on Oct. 31 when he managed a paltry one point against the Samsung Thunders.

“I could not figure out why I was struggling so bad. I couldn’t find the answer so I went so far as to talk to a sports psychologist,” Kang said.

The therapy must have worked. Kang has come out of his slump and is back to his former self. He has improved his single-digit scoring average to 13.7 points in his last three games.

While the Kang resurgence has paid big dividends for the Egis, Ha’s dominance in the paint has been more notable. The 24-year-old center has recorded a double-double (double-digits in scoring and rebounds) during the team’s four game winning streak. He has also been a standout on defense by limiting opposing big men in the low post.

LG’s Chris Alexander, who is in clear lead in the category of offensive rebounds with 57, was limited to one offensive rebound and four points on Saturday.

Another example of how well Ha has fared against centers around the league this season took place on Nov. 5 against the SK Knights. Former NBA player Samaki Walker had trouble defending Ha and perhaps a sign of frustration, committed two consecutive goaltending violations at one point in the game.

“I’m the type of player that thrives when the team is playing well,” said Ha with a laugh.

KCC’s impressive run is not expected to end anytime soon as Choo Sueng-gyun, its veteran forward and the KBL finals MVP from last season, is recuperating from an ankle injury and is expected to rejoin the team in the near future.

By Lee Eun-kyung [[jason@joongang.co.kr]

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