The Lawrence University men’s basketball team defeated a trio of Midwest Conference foes this past week. The Vikings defeated Monmouth, Grinnell, and Ripon and moved two games ahead of the Redhawks and Knox for the lead in the MWC. Friday night, the Vikings got it done with their bench. Vikings coach John Tharp didn’t like the way his starters played *******— lazily ******– in the first half against the Scots, so he replaced them. Suddenly, the Vikings had a spark. Monmouth led by as many as 10 points in the first half, 27-17, before the Vikings clawed back. The Vikings erased that deficit with a 12-2 run to end the first half, and would lead by one at halftime, 34-33. LU kept right on going to start the second half. A 16-3 run put the Vikings up by as many as 14, and they kept the lead for good. With 5:09 left, Monmouth got within six, but that’s as close as they could get, as LU would finish them off and go on to win 70-60. The Vikings were led by Chris Braier’s 18-point, 12-rebound performance. Kyle MacGillis added 12, and Matt Osland 11, for LU. Saturday it was back to the run-and-gun offense that LU has to use when facing Grinnell. Grinnell runs “The System,” an offense built around a tough pressing defense and a preference for three pointers over open lay-ups. It was no different early in the game for the Vikings. It was a high scoring affair, as the teams shot at will. Jason Holinbeck, who had been held in check the night before, erupted early in the Grinnell game. Holinbeck scored 14 of the Vikings’ first 18 points. He even scored on two three-pointers; something that normally, against Grinnell, would get him immediately yanked by coach Tharp. Grinnell, however, fully expecting the Vikings to pound the ball inside, came out in a bit of zone defense, cutting down passing lanes and leaving the three-point shot as the only available option. The Vikings responded by going 4-7 from behind the arc in the first half. Of course, Grinnell countered with some hot three-point shooting of its own. The Pioneers went 9-26 in the first half, enough to keep the game close. Grinnell took the lead, 22-21 with 11:45 left in the game, but it would be their last lead of the game. The Vikings heated up as the half approached, and at halftime LU led 45-37. The second half was dominated by Braier. He went off in the second half, hitting free throws, jumpers and layups. Braier needed 29 points coming into the game for a career 1000, and midway through the second half, he had reached his goal. Braier finished with a game-high 36 points, as LU easily won 104-88. Holinbeck finished with 35, giving him an average of 41 points per game against the Pioneers. MacGillis stepped up big again as well, with 17 points. Tuesday night’s rematch against Ripon was a big one in many ways. The Vikings had a one-game lead over the Redhawks for first place at the time. It was only the second game in Midwest Conference History featuring two nationally ranked teams, the other was last season when a nationally ranked Grinnell team came into Alex and left with a loss to the Vikings. Of course, the Vikings wanted revenge for a 72-70 overtime loss at Ripon back in December. The first half started out as everyone though it might: tight and physical. The Vikings came out with a fire, and relatively quickly jumped out to as much as a 12-point lead. However, the Redhawks clawed back once Braier, with two fouls, was sat out much of the last ten minutes of the first half by coach Tharp. This would be an important decision. The Vikings did a very good job of keeping Ripon sharpshooters Tom Becker and Bo Johnson in check until the final minutes of the first half. Becker and Johnson hit a few big threes, and Ripon took the lead from Lawrence with two minutes to go in the first. A Dan Evans jumper with nine seconds left in the first half put LU up by two 43-41 at the break. It would be the last time Ripon was that close. The Vikings started the second half out with a bang; after a 14-4 run, suddenly their lead was in the double digits. Two key Ripon players, Johnson and Jered Masson, picked up their fourth fouls early in the second half, and they had to sit considerable time. LU’s starters picked away at the Ripon subs, and took advantage. The Vikings got the lead as high as 14 before Ripon brought it back to single digits. However, Ripon, even with Johnson back in the game, could not stop the Vikings’ powerful offense, and LU dominated in the last ten minutes, winning 81-69. MacGillis, who has a season-high 24 points, led the Vikings. Holinbeck and Evans each added 14, and Braier and Brendan Falls each added 12 for the Vikings. Player of the Year candidate Tom Becker led 20th-ranked Ripon. Becker had 26 points for the Redhawks, and was the only reason Ripon stayed in the game. Braier was named MWC player of the week for his efforts over the past three games. The Vikings take a two-game lead on the road to Knox Friday night; that team is tied for second place with Ripon. The Vikings will go to Illinois College Saturday, then wind up a three-game swing at home Wednesday night against Beloit. It will be Senior Night, and the last regular season home game for the Vikings. Tip-off is 7:30 in Alex Gym.