On Saturday, Jan. 19, Grinnell College, a.k.a. “the circus,” entered Alexander Gymnasium where they looked to beat a Lawrence men’s basketball team in the midst of a four-game losing streak. The Vikings, however, were the ones who put on a show in front of a full-capacity home crowd.
Pioneers head coach David Arseneault has instituted a ‘Formula For Success’ for his basketball program. Basically, when the Pioneers attempt 94 shots or more, at least half being three-point attempts; rebound at least 33% of their missed shots; take 25 or more shots than their opponent; and force 32 or more turnovers, they win. They only managed to meet two of these five criteria on Saturday and were dealt a 111-94 loss. Junior guard Ryan Depouw added, “Grinnell runs multiple defenders at the ball to try and force turnovers, but we felt that if we kept good spacing on offense and were patient that we would eventually be able to break down their defense for easy baskets.”
From the opening tip, Lawrence imposed their physicality on a smaller Grinnell team. The post defense was exceptional, as Grinnell struggled to finish at the rim. The Vikings jumped out to a 15-6 lead just five minutes into the first half, with senior guard Chris Siebert leading the charge behind a pair of threes. Lawrence consistently penetrated the double teams, resulting in open layups and three-point chances, which Grinnell actually doesn’t mind as long as they get the ball back quickly. But regardless of how fast the Pioneers got the ball back, their shots were simply not falling early on.
Lawrence expanded the lead to 29-17 at the 10:26 mark before Grinnell finally found their stroke. Sharp shooters Jack Taylor (D-III’s leading scorer at 36.5 points per game) and Julian Marx hit back-to-back threes while Lawrence responded by making quick decisions, playing right into the hands of their opponent. Grinnell managed to close the gap to 33-30 with 8:30 remaining, but rather than calling a timeout, coach Joel DePagter let the guys play.
His trust paid off. Sophomore guard Jamie Nikitas took over on the offensive end and a complete team effort on both sides of the floor opened up a 67-48 halftime lead.
The second half continued in a similar fashion, marked by several highlight reel plays. Six minutes into the half, senior forward Chase Nelson threw down a powerful two-handed slam, which brought even more life to a packed house. But on this afternoon nothing could unseat senior Brian Gryszkiewicz, who swatted a corner three-point attempt from Aaron Levin into the next area code midway through the half. Sounds a bit like a circus, eh?
With Alex Gym rocking, the Vikings held a 29-point lead. Junior Ryan Depouw commented on the atmosphere, stating, “I thought we were able to feed off of the energy the home crowd provided for us, and hopefully our performance can get people to come back for future games because it really is awesome to look out in the stands and not see any empty seats.”
Although Grinnell added some garbage-time points, Lawrence took care of the ball and maximized their possessions until the final buzzer. The 111-94 win snapped the Pioneers’ four-game winning streak, dropping them to 11-3 (6-3 MWC). As for the Vikings (6-7, 4-4 MWC), the win provides much-needed momentum in the thick of the MWC schedule. They will look for revenge at Ripon on Tuesday, Jan. 21, before playing host to Midwest Conference cellar dweller Knox College on Saturday.