The red-hot Vikings added to their seven-game winning streak by defeating Illinois College last Friday and Grinnell College last Saturday. However, both wins did not come easy for the Vikes. Hard work and constant perseverance seemed to be the answer for this weekend’s games.Friday’s game was a battle throughout. In the first half, the score was tied five times and no team was ahead by more than four points. The half ended with the Vikes down 34-36. The unfamiliar trailing at the half was due to uncharacteristically poor shooting, as the Vikes shot 10-33 from the floor, including 3-9 from three-point range. The Blueboys did not shoot much better, shooting 13-38 from the floor.
The second half was much more favorable for the Vikes. Much like the first half, the game toggled back and forth for the majority of the second. The Blueboys’ largest lead was six points, with just under 11 minutes left to play. The Vikings fought back and battled to a tied score with four minutes remaining. Senior Andy Hurley broke the tie with a pair of free throws, followed by a free throw and two three-point shots by junior Ryan Kroeger to extend the lead to 9 points with just over two minutes left.
The Vikes maintained the lead with free throws and good coaching as the game ended 84-77 in favor of the Vikings. The Vikings had four scorers in double figures, making a case for Lawrence’s offensive power being difficult to defend. Kroeger led the Vikings in scoring with 18 points and four assists. Junior Doug Kadison had a great game as well, going 5-7 from the field with 15 points and five assists. Seniors Ben Rosenblatt and Hurley also significantly added to the Viking scoring with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
The long road trip continued with Saturday’s contest against the exciting Grinnell College Pioneers. Saturday’s game had no resemblance to the last time these two teams met at Alexander Gymnasium on January 18. Lawrence’s game plan, much like other teams’ game plans against Grinnell College, changed into a more lay-up based offense to counteract Grinnell’s heavy shooting from the perimeter.
The last time the two met, Grinnell shot poorly from the field, creating a less competitive game. However, Saturday’s game was much the opposite as Grinnell began the game shooting sharp, in their hopes of defeating Lawrence and ruining their eight-game win streak.
Grinnell’s fast-paced offense with better shooting proved successful as they ended the half just shy of 50 points. The Vikings counteracted the Pioneer offense with high-percentage shooting, as the lead changed four times throughout the first half. The Vikings’ largest lead of nine was reduced as the Pioneers began to heat up before the half with a 15-3 run. The score at the half was 49-46 in favor of the Pioneers.
Once again, the Vikings came out of the locker room with the idea that losing was not an option. Lawrence quickly gained and maintained a lead for a large majority of the second half. However, the Vikings saw a tied score with a little more than three minutes left in the game.
Junior Chris Page decided to take over — as he did throughout the game — and scored eight of the Vikings’ last 14 points, adding to key free throws by Kroeger.
Lawrence’s lead was not large enough, as it was cut to two with 26 seconds left in the game by a three-pointer from Grinnell’s Bobby Long. After some ball possession, Rosenblatt was fouled, with 14 seconds left.
The crowd of 1,050 roaring, hearts pounding, Rosenblatt approached the line, knowing that he had to make at least one free throw to give the Vikings a healthy lead. After missing the first free throw, Rosenblatt rose to the challenge and hit the next, forcing the Pioneers to hit a three pointer for a tie.
The Pioneers were stopped short as Grinnell’s Mike Schmidt missed two attempts from three-point range in the closing seconds. The Vikings once again ended the game victorious, 109-106, shooting 78 percent from the floor without a single three-point attempt.
Although it was a great team effort, a venerable game record was broken by one player in particular. Page ended the game going 20-24 from the field, scoring a total of 48 points. The previous Viking record of total points in a single game was held by Jason Holinbeck, ’05, who had 47 points. Page’s previous career high in a single game was 18 points.
Hurley went 9-13 from the field, ending the game with 23 points and Kroeger was 6-7 from both the field and the free-throw line for a total of 18 points. This was not the first time Page led the Vikings in scoring, but he is one of seven Vikings to lead the team in scoring this year, once again exemplifying the contribution of so many players on this Lawrence team.
The Vikings, led by captains Hurley, Rosenblatt, and Kroeger, are putting together quite the season. The Vikings are still undefeated in conference with eight wins and boast a 13-1 record overall. With a nine-game winning streak, it is apparent the Vikings mean business. Much credit is deserved to new head coach Joel DePagter for putting together what seems to be a season to remember.