“A tale of two halves” would be a fitting narrative for the men’s basketball team this season. The Vikings are midway through their conference schedule and have struggled much more in the second half of games than in the first.
With a lot more basketball to be played, however, players are not dwelling on the past. “We need to do a better job of playing all 40 minutes consistently and to keep attacking even when we are winning,” says sophomore forward Connor Weas. “It has hurt us a lot this season and is something we plan on getting better at the second half of conference play.”
Saturday’s home loss to Cornell College is one example to learn from. Lawrence went into the locker room at half with a 40-29 lead after shooting 60 percent from the field.
The teams proceeded to trade baskets for the first eight minutes of the second half, but then Cornell ramped up the aggressiveness. The Rams got to the free throw line at will and smothered Lawrence defensively. Cornell outscored Lawrence 43-21 in the half, won the rebound battle and ultimately the game, 72-61.
As mentioned last week, Lawrence will need to overcome their lack of size moving forward. “We know that we are not the biggest team in the league and we need to make up for that by forcing them to take tough shots and boxing out on defense,” comments Weas.
Senior guard Ryan DePouw is optimistic his team will make the necessary changes. “We are clearly doing something right that allows us to possess the leads that we’ve been having later on in games, and just have to try and channel some focus to execute the game plan when things get tough down the stretch,” DePouw adds.
As the senior leader states, there are positives to take away from the season thus far. The Vikings have held second half leads in most contests, remained relatively healthy and given Midwest Conference top dogs a run for their money.
Playing with three new starters this season has been a work in progress, but Lawrence’s most successful athletic team over the past decade is confident in their ability to close out games.
DePouw and Weas say defense and rebounding have been the main focus during recent practices. Coach DePagter knows that succeeding in these two facets will be the difference maker down the stretch.
Lawrence traveled to Ripon on Wednesday, Jan. 21 and will play on the road against Knox on Saturday, Jan. 24 at 3 p.m.
“Ripon has some outstanding guard play and for us to win we are going to have to do a solid job at limiting their effectiveness,” comments DePouw. Weas adds, “Knox is not the best shooting team, so if we force them to shoot from the outside we can give them a lot of trouble.”
Two road wins would go a long way toward restoring the success we have come to associate with Lawrence basketball. Let us see what the second half brings.