Men stay undefeated, defeat St. Norbert

Peter Griffith

Move over Duke, Pitt, and Florida. After defeating St. Norbert 79-68, and
losses by these Division I powerhouses,
Lawrence men’s basketball holds the distinction as the only undefeated team in college basketball in all divisions.
Lawrence took an early lead over the Green Knights, and, although not entirely comfortably, held the advantage throughout.
Twice late in the game, St. Norbert closed the difference to five, but, like so many times already this season, the Vikings persevered.
Playing in close games can be beneficial
for the future. A team that knows how to close a game and hit big free throws will have an advantage come tournament time.
Senior All-American Chris Braier, who has led the team in scoring only four times this year, scored 13 points in the win. It is apparent to anyone who has watched #34 in the past four years that his national recognition not only comes from his prowess
at scoring in the paint, but also his dominant rebounding skills, defense, and passing.
In order to cope with Braier, opponents
often double and triple team the Power Forward from Wawautosa, forcing him to pass more (he shot only eight times on Saturday), and he has led the team in assists eight times this year. Perhaps his biggest impact, at least in the statistics department, has been on the boards: he has lead the team in rebounds in each of the Vikings sixteen games this season (he had 17 of the Vikes 29 boards Saturday).
When teams try and force someone other than Braier to win games for LU, a mix of teammates has stepped up to fill the role. In the past five games Senior Kyle MacGillis has been that player, putting in 16 points on 5-8 shooting including 3-5 from beyond the arc against the Knights. Both he and Braier contributed 4 steals.
A modest MacGillis after the game said, “Other teams are pressuring Braier more than in the past. I just happen to be shooting well right now.” Recently he has been the Vikings best offensive player, but perhaps his biggest asset is his defense. He always guards the best player on the opposing team, shutting down one after another. When subbed-out for Ben Klekamp or Tommy Schmidt, he is always the number one cheerleader on the bench.
Ben Rosenblatt and Ryan Kroeger were the other Vikes with double figures, scoring 13 and 12 respectively. Most of their points came from the free throw line with Rosenblatt hitting 7-8 and Kroeger 9-10. Rosenblatt also was 2-3 from the field, both three pointers.
Lawrence is ranked #3 in the latest poll, receiving two first place votes, and the Vikes are ranked #1 in the nation according to the computerized Massey Ratings. LU’s next tests come this weekend, traveling to Monmouth to battle the Scots Friday night and making the long trip to Iowa Saturday, battling Grinnell College. Lawrence knows what it takes to play and win in a tough Grinnell environment,
but increased intensity coming from Lawrence’s national exposure and a minor scuffle between LU fans and Grinnell players
at halftime earlier this month will boost the intensity of the atmosphere. The Vikings close out their four game road trip at Ripon on the 31st.