Vikings win second consecutive MWC Crown -dlh

Andy York

The Lawrence University men’s basketball team clinched their second consecutive Midwest Conference regular season championship, and the right to host the Midwest Conference Tournament Feb. 25 and 26 in Alexander Gym. It is the first time in Lawrence history that the men’s basketball team has won back-to-back titles, and is only the fifth MWC Championship in the school’s history.
The Vikings clinched a share of the title with a win over Beloit. The first half was a back and forth affair that saw several lead changes. The Vikings took the lead for good on a Kevin Bradley trey with 9:04 to go in the first half at 20-18. It was all Vikings after that. LU would push their lead to as many as eight in the last nine minutes of the first half, and reached that point again on a circus style lay-up by senior Dana Evans as the horn sounded. LU led 37-29 at halftime.
The second half belonged to the Vikings. Beloit never got back within single digits. Scoring was spread all around for the Vikings, with everyone putting some numbers in. The Vikings did a great job on the defensive end, shutting down Beloit’s best player, Josh Hinz, until the game was well out of hand. While Hinz ended with 18 points, he scored all by four of them in the last eight minutes of the game. The Vikings outscored the Buccaneers in the second half by four, and would easily win the game 81-69. Chris Braier led the Vikings with 16 points and nine rebounds. Brendan Falls added 11 for LU as well.
With a share of the conference title wrapped up, LU looked to clinch it outright and clinch home court advantage for the MWC tournament Saturday at St. Norbert. The Vikings were also looking to avenge an 84-76 loss in January, which snapped LU’s 18 game home winning streak. The Vikings, have not lost another game at home this season, and are now six games into a new winning streak.
The Vikings looked to jump out early on the Green Knights, and they did so. The Vikings took advantage of a cold shooting Green Knight squared, and one with some of their best shooters in foul trouble. LU found a good combination of outside shooting and midrange jump shots to counter for their lack of offense inside. Braier only had two points at the half, but he showed why he is an All-American by grabbing 14 rebounds in the first half, and this despite sitting down the last five minutes with two fouls. It was easily enough as LU led at halftime 32-25.
The second half was even worse for the Green Knights. Though Aaron Faulker and Brandon Hanson heated up late for the Green Knights, their defense was porous. LU took advantage as a good team should, and found the holes left open by St. Norbert. The Vikings shot 50 percent in the second half, and hit 12 of their 13 free throw attempts in the second half to easily cruise to a 72-48 victory. LU was led by Jason Holinbeck, who had 19 points and five three-pointers. Evans added 16, Kyle MacGillis 13 and Braier 12 for the Vikings. The win conferred home court advantage for the MWC tournament, which the Vikings won last year en route to their Elite Eight performance.
The Vikings close out the regular season Saturday at Carroll, and while it will not matter to LU, it will matter to the MWC playoff race. Saturday’s game could be a possible rematch of the first round of the MWC tournament, as Carroll fights with Monmouth for the last spot in the four-team tournament. Joining LU as already qualified are Ripon and Lake Forest. Who the Vikings will play could get quite muddled before the conclusion of Saturday’s games however. Due to the MWC’s complex tie-breaking rules, LU could play any of the four teams in the first round. A LU win on Saturday coupled with a Monmouth victory will send the Scots to Appleton to play the Vikings in the first round. A Carroll victory gets them in, and could even get them to the third seed with possible losses by Lake Forest and Ripon. All LU knows is that they are champions for the second year in a row, and have done something no one ever at this school has ever done before. Look for a full preview of the Midwest Conference tournament, as well as profiles of all four competing institutions in next week’s *** Lawrentian****.