Men take care of conference’s best

Mouse Brown

It was as easy as 1, 2, 3. Well, not quite, but the LU men’s basketball
team was able to establish their early-season dominance over the top teams in the Midwest Conference. Playing opponents with the second, third, and fourth best conference records in front of packed Alexander Gymnasium crowds, the Vikings were able to augment their unbeaten record to 13-0. Lawrence University is now the last remaining undefeated team in men’s Division III basketball.
The Vikes opened their successful
home stand by beating Grinnell 125-110, and then defeating Lake Forest 78-57. On Wednesday night, they beat the Carroll College Pioneers 86-81.
Grinnell employs what is known as “The System,” an unorthodox style of basketball which focuses on full-court defensive pressure, constant
substitution, and quick 3-point shots hoping to get long rebounds off the misses. Vikings coach John Tharp has found a way to beat “The System” in the recent past with solid ball protection, shooting only layups, and pressuring the 3-point shot.
The Vikings took an early advantage
against Grinnell by controlling the ball and forcing turnovers.
Lawrence led 19-5 before Grinnell was able to hit their first three. With 8:44 left in the first half, the Vikes led 45-27; however, LU faithful knew that an 18-point lead against Grinnell is not safe.
With a quick reversal
of momentum, Grinnell slimmed the Vikes’ advantage to only 1. Grinnell took advantage of sloppy ball-handling and missed Viking free throws. Going into the half, the teams were locked at 59.
“When you’re playing a team like Grinnell, you have to be ready for anything,” senior Kyle MacGillis explained after the game. “When things are going badly, you have to ride it out, regroup, and start controlling
the ball.”
Lawrence came out of halftime looking
flat, missing
layups. Trailing 65-61, the Vikes rallied. As quickly as Coach Tharp’s troops had lost the lead, they gained it back. After regaining control,
they never looked back, taking the game by a final score of 125-110.
MacGillis gave what Tharp has come to expect of his senior forward. He was visibly drained throughout the whole second half against the fresh-legged Pioneers, who had 12 players with at least 10 minutes of playing time, but none with more than 20. MacGillis finished with 27 points, shooting 13-16 from the free throw line. He also forced 5 Pioneer turnovers.
Chris Braier finished with 26 points and a career-high 24 rebounds. Reserve sophomore guard Erik Megow finished with 16 points, amassing 11 more points than he had scored in his entire Lawrence career. John Grotberg paced the Pioneers with 31 points.
One may have guessed that, after playing a draining, run-and-gun style game against Grinnell, the Vikes faced the possibility of coming out flat against Lake Forest College Saturday afternoon. The guys did exactly the opposite. Hot shooting led Lawrence to their 12th straight win.
The Vikes held a double-digit advantage for most of the first half, leading to a 36-25 halftime lead. The Foresters scored the first 6 points of the second half, but LU went on a 14-2 run to regain control of the game.
Normally, tired legs lead to missed shots, but this was not true for MacGillis on Saturday. He scored a game-high 26 on an impressive 10-13 shooting and 6-7 behind the arc. “Coach Tharp tells us that we’re young adults doing something we love,” MacGillis explained. “It’s really not that hard to motivate yourself.”
Keven Bradley was also on fire for LU, making 3-4 3-pointers and finishing with 13 points. Osland, who did not see much action Friday night because of Tharp’s game plan, finished with 12 points on 6-8 shooting. Braier finished with only 5 points and 9 rebounds, but still made his presence felt by doling out 12 assists, tying for the second highest total in Viking history. LU finished shooting an amazing 59.3 percent
(32-54) from the field.
On Wednesday night, a tough Carroll team entered Alexander Gymnasium. The Vikes established first-half dominance over the Pioneers, leading by as many as 18. Andy Hurley was instrumental in LU’s early lead, scoring 10 of his 11 points in the first half. Carroll regrouped after their slow start and scored the final 9 points of the half, narrowing the lead to 43-34.
Carroll continued their momentum in the second half, narrowing the lead to 51-50 with 15 minutes to play. After back-to-back MacGillis 3-pointers,
the game took a strange turn.
Carroll College stepped up their defensive pressure forcing Viking turnovers and bad shots. In the final 13 minutes, the Vikings only made three shots from the field. Along with forcing
turnovers, increased pressure
from Carroll also resulted in numerous fouls and trips for the Vikes to the free throw line. LU converted on 22-30 foul attempts in the second half to keep the Pioneers at bay.
Braier had an off night, shooting only 3-14 from the field, but he did contribute with 14 rebounds and 4 steals. MacGillis, who also had 4 steals, led the team in scoring with 22. Also in double digits were Bradley with 14, Kroeger with 11, and Hurley also with 11.
The Vikes have moved up to No. 5 in the nation according
to the Jan. 15th poll on The men have a single game this weekend, traveling
to De Pere to take on the Green Knights of St. Norbert College Saturday at 2 p.m. After enjoying the safe haven that is “Alex,” LU will have to prove itself on the road against a team that upset them last year.