Men still winning

Mouse Braun

Undefeated. 17-0. It doesn’t get much better than this. After winning last weekend
at Monmouth 75-68 and then traveling
to a tough Grinnell and winning 98-79, the LU men’s basketball team managed to hold off archrival Ripon College Tuesday night, 73-70.
In their weekend opener, Lawrence held a 39-26 advantage with four-and-a-half minutes left in the first half, but Monmouth took the momentum in the final minutes of the stanza, outscoring the Vikes 14-6, leaving LU with only a 5-point advantage.
Lawrence held the lead throughout the whole second half; however, a persistent
Monmouth team kept the game within reach. Leading by as much as 10 early in the second half, the Vikings couldn’t seem to put the game away until the final minute. It would take clutch free throw shooting from underclassmen Ryan Kroeger and Ben Rosenblatt and a monstrous block by senior Ben Klekamp to finish things off.
All-American Chris Braier poured in 18 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Vikes. Kroeger added 16 and senior Kyle MacGillis had 13 points along with 8 assists.
The men then made the trip to Grinnell, Iowa to battle the Pioneers in a boisterous Darby Gymnasium. The home crowd did their part in the first half, urging
a persistent Grinnell team to only a 43-39 deficit.
LU took over in the second half. They went on a 16-6 run in a matter of four minutes to take a definitive 88-68 lead with 7:15 remaining. Not even “The System” could overtake the Vikes advantage.
Grinnell, a team that averages 120 points per game this season, was limited to fewer than 80.
Lawrence coach John Tharp seems to have perfected the art of defending the Pioneers’ frantic attack. Relying on the 3-point shot, Grinnell was limited to only 9-43 beyond the arc as a result of the Viking’s defensive pressure.
Kroeger played amazingly, scoring 31 points, on 13-18 shooting. Braier turned in an all-American effort, putting in 19 points, 20 boards and 7 assists. MacGillis also added a double-double with 26 points and 10 rebounds. John Grotberg put in 27 points for Grinnell.
Against Ripon, the Vikes off the bench made the difference. The Redhawks sat in a man-to-man defense pretty much the entire game. They decided not to put full-court pressure on Lawrence, who has had continued success in breaking full-court pressure in the Braier-MacGillis era.
The Redhawk half-court pressure worked against Lawrence’s two stars. Braier and MacGillis combined for 10 of the 15 Viking turnovers, extremely uncharacteristic for the usually reliable seniors. It would take heroic efforts by other players to seal the deal.
Kroeger, Klekamp, and Doug Kadison were the Viking reserves who carried their team down the stretch. Kadison played arguably the best game of his young Lawrence career, going 4-7 from the floor, including 3-3 from 3-point land. He finished with 11 points in only 17 minutes.
Klekamp was called upon to stop Ripon star Bo Johnson. In the last 11 minutes of the game, the senior limited his Ripon counterpart to only one basket. After the game Tharp said, “I though Ben Klekamp was marvelous.”
Kroeger came in and closed out the game for the Vikes. A young man who seems to have ice in his veins week in and week out, did not disappoint.
He was fouled with 16 seconds left to play and hit both ends of the 1-and-1 opportunity. His stellar 3-point shooting is equally matched by his defensive presence. On Ripon’s ensuing possession, he came away with a steal to preserve the perfect season.
LU is still the lone unbeaten team in all of men’s college basketball. They are now 17-0 and 11-0 in Midwest Conference play. They are ranked No. 3 according to d3hoops.com, and No. 1 according to the Massey Ratings.
After their four-game road trip, the men return to Alex for a three-game home stand. They host Knox College Friday night and Illinois College Saturday afternoon. They will face Beloit College Wednesday.

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