The Lawrence University (Vikings) Men’s Basketball team competed last weekend at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. The visiting Vikings (8-10) proved that their early-January losing streak was truly a thing of the past with a decisive 71-57 win against Knox’s struggling Prairie Fire (1-16). Lawrence was led by the red-hot senior Jamie Nikitas with 22 points, seven rebounds, four assists and four steals. Senior Troy Miller also proved his sharp-shooting ability with five 3-pointers and 17 total points, and sophomore Jeremy Stephani added 15 points of his own to help seal the victory.
After their third win in a row, the Vikings seem to have effectively forgotten the six-game rough patch that plagued the team from the beginning of January. Against Knox, the team concentrated on what was ahead, not what was behind. “Our team goals were pretty simple,” said junior Mitch Willer. “Get a win on the road to build our winning streak.”
Knox had other ideas, as the beginning of the game saw the Prairie Fire going on a 10-0 run, effectively stifling the Viking offense. It was not until 13:30 minutes were left in the half that Lawrence got on the board with a pair of Nikitas free throws. The Vikings then rallied during the rest of the half and cut down the Prairie Fire lead to 30-27 by halftime.
The second half proved to be a much different story than the first. After five minutes into the half, the Vikings took their first lead of the game on a Willer jumper to bring the score to 35-34. Knox and Lawrence then traded baskets, keeping the game close at 42-40 with the Vikings barely on top with 12 minutes left in the game. Nikitas, after draining a 3-pointer, began the Vikings’ victory run. Lawrence went on a 12-0 run bringing the score to 52-40 with 10 minutes left in the game. The Vikings did not look back after that, as Knox only came within nine points of the lead for the rest of the game. Lawrence closed out the game with a final score of 70-57.
Willer credited the late Viking surge to greatly-improved overall team performances. “We started extremely slow, and earlier in the year, that could have doomed us from the start,” he said. “But we stayed calm and focused, cut the lead down, and then built on that lead in the second half to put it away.”
Looking forward, the Vikings have their sights set high on a successful end to a long and tiring season. To do this, the team needs to do what they do best: play good basketball. “We just need to take things day to day,” said sophomore Ben Peterson. “If we play the way we know we can, I believe we have a good chance to win the rest of our games this season.” The Vikings will travel to Illinois College on Saturday, Feb. 6, where Lawrence looks to continue its positive momentum.