The tenth ranked LU men’s basketball team stomped a tough Grinnell team and completely dominated a hopeless Monmouth team this past weekend to keep themselves in first place, undefeated in the MWC. Friday night the Vikings had no trouble whatsoever against the Scots. The Vikings led from the beginning and the game was over in the first half. With 13:47 to go in the first half the score was 16-11 LU. With 2:54 to go in the first half the score was 49-15 LU. The Vikings completely dominated the first half and at the half would lead 55-23. The Vikings shot an incredible 61 percent in the first half, and were 8-14 from three-point range.
Coach Tharp had his starters play very little in the second half as he emptied his bench to get some players time who had hardly seen the court this season. All but one Viking on the roster scored for LU in this game.
The second half was another blowout, and LU went on to win the game by the score of 101-68. Chris Braier who had 10 points and 19 rebounds in only 18 minutes of playing time led the Vikings. Five other Vikings were in double figures. Aaron Sorenson led the team with 15, all on five three pointers. Jason Hollenbeck had 13, and Rob Nenahlo, Dan Evans and little used guard Brett Sjoberg has 11 for the Vikings.
Friday night’s blowout win allowed LU coach John Tharp to rest many of his key players for the monumental task ahead of them Saturday. The game between then 13th ranked Lawrence and 21st ranked Grinnell was the first game in the MWC between two nationally ranked opponents. Grinnell was reeling after receiving their first loss of the year the night before, to Carroll College. Alexander Gym was packed, the most fans ever to watch an LU basketball game, and the Vikings did not disappoint.
Grinnell plays what many critics have called a “circus atmosphere”. They sub five players at a time like a line change in hockey. Grinnell’s offense revolves around the three pointer. If they make them, they usually win. If they don’t, they usually lose. LU exploited their system and shut it down in setting Grinnell on a losing streak.
The Vikings came out with a strict no three point shot edict from Tharp. It worked, as LU would get easy lay-up after lay-up. Their first points not in the paint would come on Brendan Falls’ jumper as time expired in the first half. LU worked the ball around and found easy holes in the Pioneer defense. LU’s biggest lead came at the end of the first half when then led by 22, 71-49. The Vikings shot an astounding 81 percent in the first half. The Vikings out rebounded the Pioneers as well. Grinnell fired up 29 three pointers in the first half, but only hit nine as LU did a great job defensively.
The second half would be no different. Grinnell continued to try and hit the trey, and LU did a great job defensively to shut them down. Lu continued to get easy lay-ups, and took advantage of every hole in the Grinnell zone defense. As much as the Pioneers tried, they couldn’t get the Viking lead below 15 points. LU would continue to make lay-ups and play tough defense, even forcing the pioneers away from their game plan and making them come inside and make short-range jump shots. As Grinnell All-American Steve Wood who had 35 in the game for the Pioneers put it, “They played a great game today.”
The Vikings would defeat the Pioneers 125-111 for their 12th straight victory. LU was led by MWC player of the week, and the front-runner for MWC player of the year Chris Braier who had 38 points and 21 rebounds. Braier had more defensive rebounds then the entire Grinnell team. He averaged 24 points and 20 rebounds for the weekend for LU. Also scoring in double figures for the Vikings were Nenahlo with 24, Hollenbeck and Chris MacGillis who both had 14. MacGillis also led the team with eight assists against the Pioneers.
The Vikings are 7-0 in the MWC and 13-1 overall. The Vikings cracked the top ten nationally in the newest D3Hoops.com poll, their highest ranking in school history. They are back in action this weekend in Illinois against Knox and Monmouth. The next home game is Tuesday Feb 3 against St. Norbert. That game can be heard on 91.1 WLFM.