Team Northumbria head into the biggest week of their season so far on the back of a disappointing defeat at Derby.
Marc Steutel’s men face derby rivals Newcastle on Wednesday in what could be a BUCS thriller.
And on Sunday TN host Worcester Wolves in the BBL Trophy as they bid to cause an upset against top flight opposition.
The visitors endured a tough 86-71 loss to the Trailblazers without starters Jack Preston and Lewis Champion – suspended following last month’s fracas in Manchester.
But Malcolm Smith managed to shake off the knee problem that ruled him out of Wednesday’s BUCS fixture against Worcester as he made his return to court as TN’s top scorer.
“We knew it was going to be a challenging situation as we were a bit light on players,” said head coach Steutel. “It was an opportunity for different guys to step up and play but obviously I am disappointed with the result.”
TN made a convincing start – leading by four points going in to the second quarter but struggled against the Trailblazers and went in to the second half trailing by eight (44-36).
Steutel’s men managed a strong comeback in the third, thanks to the efforts of Smith, Blayne Freckleton and Danny Horta-Darrington, to close down the threat and trail Derby by just two points.
“Individually, I was pleased with how Blayne and Danny played,” added Steutel. “Both of them did a positive job of stepping up and being a threat offensively and trying to play smart defence.
“We were down eight points at half time and at the end of the third it was a two-point game. In the fourth, we took the lead though Siman Stewart but at that moment I don’t think we did a great job of managing the game.”
TN’s inability to stop Derby’s offensive play in the last quarter was their downfall and a run of points from the home side meant the visitors finished the game empty-handed.
“Our decision making at times wasn’t overly positive which was challenging,” added Steutel. “We need to be better defensively for longer periods of time as opposed to short spells.
“Credit to Derby, they played well. We’ve got some work to do to make sure we finish on a high going in to the Christmas break.
“We’ve got to go back, look at the tape, see what we could have done better and get ready for the Newcastle game on Wednesday and the BBL Trophy game.”
Report by Natalie Martin