The Lawrence men’s basketball team took on Cornell on Saturday, Feb. 15 in a game with huge implications for the Midwest Conference Tournament. The Vikings went into the contest one game behind Carroll for fourth in conference. Not only did the game carry great significance considering the standings, but also because it was alumni weekend as well as senior day. Alexander Gymnasium was filled with former players and families of current players as the program honored its eight graduating seniors before the game.
The game was evenly played for the majority of the first half and neither team was able to seize control of it. That was until the Vikings built a 39-29 lead thanks to a 12-4 scoring run that featured seven points from junior Ryan DePouw and five points from sophomore Trace Sonnleitner. Lawrence went into the half with a 45-34 lead.
The Vikings carried that momentum into the second half and seemed to take control, leading by as many as 16 points. The Cornell Rams would not go down without a fight, however, and went on an 11-0 scoring run, cutting the lead to just three points with less than three minutes to play.
The teams traded baskets and the lead remained at three with just 46 seconds remaining. The Vikings kept their composure and proceeded to hit six straight free throws, while forcing the Rams to miss their next three shots. Lawrence won the game by a final score of 77-68.
“It was huge to get a win on senior day, especially with a lot of former players watching. It definitely added to the excitement of the game,” said Sonnleitner.
Lawrence was paced by a monster game from DePouw, who scored a career-high 27 points and posted a double-double by pulling in 12 rebounds. He was followed by sophomore Jamie Nikitas with 14 points and senior Chris Siebert with 10. Reggie Greenwood led all Cornell scorers with 26 points, but needed 21 shots to get there.
DePouw’s performances this week earned him Midwest Conference Player of the Week honors. In two contests, DePouw averaged 24 points and eight rebounds while shooting an astonishing 65% from the field.
The win kept the Vikings’ conference tournament hopes alive, as they remain one game behind the coveted fourth spot. The Vikings need to win the final two games of the season and get some help from other teams in order to clinch a tournament spot.
“We can only control what we do, so we will always play with a lot of intensity,” added Sonnleitner.
The Vikings played their final home game against Lake Forest on Wednesday, Feb. 19, and will finish their regular season at Grinnell College on Saturday, Feb. 22.