The Lawrence University Vikings knocked off a tough Illinois College team on the road 76-70 last Friday, remaining unbeaten in the MWC. The win sets up a huge home weekend for the Vikings, who will host Monmouth Friday, and then will play possibly their biggest game since the 1997 MWC Championship game Saturday against 21st ranked Grinnell.The Vikings and Blueboys traded runs, and the game was tied at 22 with 9:26 remaining in the first half. The Vikings promptly went on a 14-0 run, with six of the points scored by Rob Nenahlo. Illinois College would come back, and the lead would be cut to eight at halftime 43-35.
The Blueboys dominated the early part of the second half. The Vikings’ lead shrunk away, and with 11:43 to go the score was tied at 56. The Vikings took the lead back, and Illinois College had a chance down the stretch to take the lead, but they could not hit their free throws. LU did hit theirs, and they went on to win 76-70 in an ugly but necessary road victory.
Chris MacGillis led the Vikings in scoring. The senior had 21 for LU, and has been huge off the bench for the Vikings this season. Other Vikings in double figures include Nenahlo with 19 and Chris Braier with 14. Dylan Dudly led Illinois College with 20.
The win keeps the Vikings undefeated in the MWC and in a tie for first place with Grinnell, who comes in on Saturday. The Vikings and Pioneers will only play this once this season, so this game looms large for both teams. The Vikings are ranked 13th in the country and will have the home court advantage. The Pioneers come in ranked 21st in the country and are one of four undefeated teams left in the nation.
These two teams create an interesting match up for Saturday’s tilt. The two teams played once last year in Grinnell’s Darby Gym. Grinnell won 150-149 in triple overtime in what was the highest scoring game in any level of basketball, pro college or otherwise played in the US last year. This season, Grinnell is once again leading the nation in scoring, averaging over 133 points per game. The Vikings have the number one ranked scoring defense in the Midwest Conference, and are in the top 25 in the nation in scoring defense.
Grinnell has Steve Wood, a pre-season all-American candidate who is the second leading scorer in the nation at 28.3 points per game. Steve Nordlund leads the nation in averaging 5.8 three point shots made per game. Grinnell averages over seventy three-point shots per game, and the Vikings will need to rebound well to win. Coming into the weekend Grinnell and LU are one and two respectively in rebounding in the MWC.
One advantage for LU is that they have had a relatively easy schedule in the last week, while Grinnell hasn’t. The Vikings defeated Illinois College, and have Monmouth tonight at home, while Grinnell beat both Ripon and St. Norbert at home last weekend, defeated Knox on the road Tuesday night, and has to play at Carroll tonight. The Vikings hope Grinnell will be a little sluggish. The Vikings can’t overlook Monmouth however. The Scots don’t have their first MWC win yet, but they would love to get it in Appleton. Troy Bennett who is averaging 18.4 points per game leads Monmouth, and they have several other good players. The Vikings will have to play two good games this weekend to remain unbeaten, and in first place in the MWC. Game time is 5:30 tonight against Monmouth and 2:00 tomorrow in Alexander Gym against the Pioneers.