The Lawrence Vikings were victorious this past Saturday, Feb. 8 at Illinois College by with a final score of 82-79. The Vikings were able to hold-off a furious rally from the Blueboys to keep possession of the lead for the entire game. The Midwest Conference victory keeps Lawrence’s hopes for a berth in the conference tournament alive.
The Vikings planned on competing hard from the beginning against a competitive Illinois College team. “Our mentality going into the game was to be the aggressors and to make the first punch,” said senior Max Burgess. “We were focusing on having strong communication on defense and to run in transition whenever possible.” The Vikings certainly achieved their goal of beginning the game on a strong note, as they led the Blueboys 13-2 just three minutes into the game. With 3:46 left in the half, Lawrence held their greatest first-half advantage of the season at 40-23. The Vikings were able to round out the half with a lead of 43-33.
After starting the game on a hot streak, Lawrence focused on maintaining its high level of play. “The team was feeling good about themselves at halftime,” recounted Burgess. “We were confident that we could finish them out, but knew we could not take the foot off the pedal because Illinois College was going to keep fighting.”
The Vikings came out of the half firing on all cylinders, as they were able to increase their lead. With 8:05 left to play, Lawrence had the lead by a score of 70-49. That’s when the Blueboys began to rally. In the next five minutes, Illinois College went on a 15-3 run and brought the deficit back to single digits at 73-64.
The Blueboys cut the lead to 79-73, taking advantage of the Vikings’ missed free throws. However, the strong play of the Vikings earlier in the game was too much for the Blueboys to overcome as Lawrence ran out the clock to win 82-79.
Overall this game was characterized by the strong, aggressive play from the Vikings early on. Burgess recalled, “Our team performed very well for 35 minutes. The last five minutes could have been better, but we were able to get the win and that is the most important thing.” One aspect the Vikings need to improve upon is hitting free throws and closing-out games. They have proved that they can be competitive to start games, and the Vikings will be a very difficult team down the stretch if they can maintain this success throughout.
The Vikings will now focus on securing a berth in the Midwest Conference tournament. Lawrence traveled to Beloit on Wednesday, Feb. 12 for another Midwest Conference showdown. They play host to Cornell on Saturday, Feb. 15 in a crucial MWC contest.