This past weekend, the Lawrence University’s men’s and women’s basketball teams travelled to Cornell College and Monmouth College, both taking home one win and one loss. The women’s team started the weekend off right by beating Cornell 64-52 on Friday, but the tides shifted, and they lost to Monmouth on Saturday, 68-51. The men’s team started the weekend on the rough side and fell to Cornell on Friday, 91-76, but on Saturday, they were able to pull ahead and come out on top of Monmouth 78-74. The women’s team now sits with a record of five wins and thirteen losses overall, with two of those wins and ten of those loses being from Midwest Conference games. After this weekend, the Vikings men’s team has a record of ten wins and nine loses overall; seven of those wins and five of those losses are from Midwest Conference games. With this record, the men’s team is looking to keep up their efforts in order to make it to the Midwest Conference Tournament at the end of the season.
The weekend started off extremely well for the Vikings women’s team in all aspects of the game against Cornell. “We got off to a very good start against Cornell,” said Head Coach Riley Woldt. “They do some things that are difficult to guard, and I thought we did a nice job of being tough individually, but we also did great collectively to support one another to get stops. When you get stops, it leads to a better flow on offense.” As a team, the women were able to work together in order to get some shots off, as the shot clock wound down, that were of good quality even in a limited time frame. “I thought our team showed some toughness and composure as Cornell made two different runs in the second half,” continued Coach Woldt. “We did a really good job of executing down the stretch.”
The women’s team played amazingly from the shooting stand-point. Although defense wins championships, shooting is one of the most important aspects of the game-to-game statistics. As long as the team can get the shots off and their percentages are high, they will be able to move forward and overcome other teams. Sophomore Kenya Earl had a phenomenal game, posting 24 points and 13 rebounds, a majority of those coming from the defensive end. She set a school record of making 15 free-throws in a single game, while only missing one from the line. Junior Shonell Benjamin scored 14 points for the team and made an additional 6 rebounds for the team. As a team against Cornell, the Vikings’ women were able to make 22 out of 24 of their free-throws and 19 out of 34 field goals. On the defensive end, they were able to nab 27 rebounds, which is out of their total of 32 rebounds.
Against Monmouth College, the Vikings’ women’s team did not have as much success as the previous night. Offensively, they started off well, but once they hit a rough run in the first half of the game where the ball would not fall through the net, the team was unable to bounce back completely but were able to have a stronger second half of the game. Coach Woldt stated, “After regrouping at halftime, our team showed grit as they bounced back and battled possession for possession in the second half.” Earl was the top contender again on Saturday, scoring 16 points for the Vikings and having 4 defensive rebounds. Benjamin scored another 11 points and had three rebounds for the Vikings. Despite this loss, the Vikings’ women’s team will continue to move forward in their ambitions, focusing more on the “we” aspect of the game.
Opposed to the start of the women’s weekend, then Vikings men’s team did not have as great a start. Against Cornell, the men’s team fell behind in the latter part of the first half. They had difficulty recovering from a setback of 15 points, but even as they tried to rally back into the game during the second half, they were unable to close the gap. Sophomore Brad Sendell put up 25 points for the Vikings and four rebounds. Sophomores Bryce Denham and Mason Materna followed behind Sendell in points, putting Lawrence back in competition with Cornell with 16 points each. But going into Saturday’s game against Monmouth, the Vikings’ men’s team decided that it was time to shift gears and change things up.
“After our loss against Cornell, we changed up our offense going into Monmouth,” stated senior George Mavrakis. “Our coaches decided it would be best to play to our strengths. They installed a chain of offensive plays that forced us to drive the ball, get to the rim and play together more fluidly.”
This positive change was reflected through their durability in the first half against Monmouth. The Vikings’ men’s team was able to keep the game tight and even came out ahead at the end of the first half, 34 to 30. The Vikings were able to pull ahead midway through the second half even further, gaining an 11-point advantage. But the game grew close again quickly, and the men’s team fought hard to win the game against Monmouth.
Sendell set a new season high for himself with 31 points during the Monmouth game, out-scoring his previous season high by 3 points. “Brad has been a beast lately,” Mavrakis praised. “He’s really growing into a great leader for the team as well. His communication on the floor is vital to our team’s success.” Denham scored another 16 points on Saturday, along with 5 rebounds to help lift the Vikings to victory. Mavrakis also helped the Vikings push forward by adding 12 points to the scoreboard and having a team high of 8 rebounds.
As the men’s team looks ahead at the season, they are hoping to reach the conference tournament. “We are in a really good position to make a run,” said Mavrakis. “All the early struggles we’ve had to get to this point have been worth it.” Not only is the team working hard to make the necessary adjustments before each game, but the coaches are also working hard to make sure that the team is best prepared for the competition to come. The coaches adapt to the strengths of the players as a team and individually, and the players are ready to listen and have immense trust in their coaches to guide them towards the conference tournament.
Both the men’s and the women’s teams will play away at Ripon College on Saturday, Feb. 2. After that they will have a home game against Lake Forest College on Tuesday, Feb. 5. Both of these games will be counted towards their Midwest Conference record. After these two games, both teams will only have three more games left in their regular season that will determine the remainder of the post-season.