Men’s basketball eliminated from conference tournament

The Lawrence University Men’s Basketball team’s (Vikings) season is coming to a close on Feb. 19. The season has truly been filled with ups and downs for the 9-13 Vikings. Out of 22 total games, 10 have been decided by five points or less, including six decided by a single possession.

The Vikings suffered a six-game losing streak in the middle of the season, but managed to follow it with wins in four of its next five games and a heartbreakingly close loss to St. Norbert College (Green Knights). A couple of missed shots in the closing minutes prevented Lawrence from handing the Green Knights their first conference loss since 2013 and inserting themselves back into contention for the conference tournament. “We have played with a lot of energy, a lot of effort,” said senior and point guard Jamie Nikitas of the team’s turnaround. “We have really started playing for each other and [we are] not worried about who we are playing or where we are playing.”

Unfortunately, Lawrence’s streak of great play came to a close when the team suffered its worst loss of the season to Beloit College. This was the Vikings’ first loss to Beloit since 2012. After the loss, the team enjoyed its first Saturday of 2016 without a game. “In some ways, it would have been nice to get right back on the court after a loss like that, but this late in the season I think the guys’ bodies are getting a little beat up, so having that weekend off is really going to help us,” said Nikitas.

Head Coach Joel DePagter allowed members of the team to go home for reading period and take a couple days off of practice. Being well rested will be important as the final stretch of the season will not be easy in the competitive Midwest Conference.

While mathematically eliminated from the conference tournament, the Vikings still have plenty to play for. Nikitas hopes that the difference in the team’s final games will come down to execution, rather than leaving anything to chance. “When you take care of the stuff you can control, all that matters is whether or not shots go in,” said Nikitas. “Luckily some [shots] for us have fallen and we have had some big wins.”

The Vikings are not the type of team to back down from a challenge. “We know we can play with anyone so coming out, playing with confidence, energy [and] effort and playing together [are] going to be what we are trying to do,” Nikitas added.

The Vikings will have a difficult time replacing Nikitas and fellow senior Troy Miller next year, but a good finish to this season could kick-start the team’s success next year. Nikitas hopes that his younger teammates will continue to do things the right way in his and Miller’s absence. “The guys are definitely going to have to step up,” said Nikitas. “I am hoping that the example we set for the younger guys really helps them moving forward.”