Men’s Basketball loses!

Peter Griffith

The 2006-07 Lawrence University men’s basketball season began in a way that the Vikings are unaccustomed to in recent years: with a loss.
In fact, to date LU has already suffered three losses, the most to start the season in five years. If LU hopes to claim a fourth straight MWC title, they will have to rebound from a rougher start than the team is used to.
The Vikings started the season at home against UW-Stevens Point (11-1, 5-0 WIAC, No. 1). Point, now ranked first in the top 25 poll – a spot Lawrence held for much of last season – led 61-45 with 10:14 left in the game, but Lawrence managed to claw back to within one with 58 seconds left before finally succumbing to accurate free throw shooting and losing 70-67.
LU wouldn’t have a losing record for long, however, as they went into the Concordia (Wis.) Holiday Tournament with a sense of urgency. They faced off against Wisconsin Lutheran (7-5, 4-1 NAthC) and were fueled by Ryan Kroeger’s 25 points en route to an easy 89-75 victory.
LU then took on the host Concordia (1-7, 1-3 NAthC) and coolly put the Falcons away 72-62. Andy Hurley led Lawrence with 18 points.
Going into conference play the Vikings were 2-1 and had at best shaky confidence. That all was put to rest when Monmouth (5-4, 1-2) came to town Dec. 2. LU committed only eight turnovers in a 91-63 rout of the visiting Scots, who shot only 35.8 percent from the floor.
Conference foes come in pairs, and Monmouth’s traveling companion Lake Forest (5-4, 1-1) would put up a slightly stiffer test for the Vikings, but LU was in control the whole time in a 69-59 win.
Lawrence’s next two games would define the opening to their season, and unfortunately both were losses. Carthage College (8-2, 0-0 CCIW, No. 17) from the juggernaut CCIW gave LU their second loss in a thrilling double overtime game at Alexander Gymnasium.
Carthage came back from 12 points down in the second half to tie the game, and Ryan Kroeger missed a shot at the end of regulation that would have won the game for Lawrence.
After a first OT period in which LU had to play mostly from behind, Carthage took control in the second OT with superior inside strength to seal the win for the Red Men, 93-86.
In Lawrence’s soundest defeat since Stevens Point in the NCAA tournament two years ago, UW-Oshkosh (10-2, 3-1 WIAC, No. 18) would take advantage of only three turnovers and a 29-25 run in the final 8:24 to put away the Vikings, 88-75.
Again Lawrence would go into a holiday tournament looking to erase bad memories of a loss or two, and again they came out on top. This time it was the Land of Magic Classic in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Lawrence began with a victory over Allegheny College (5-5, 1-1 NCAC). Lawrence never trailed in a 69-57 win that may in a small way heal the wounds sustained last year at the hands of Illinois Wesleyan, the only team to beat the 05-06 Vikes.
Allegheny had beaten Ohio Wesleyan who beat Illinois Wesleyan earlier in the season.
The second of the two holiday classic games for the Vikings was against Ursinus (6-5, 3-1 CC). The Vikings almost gave this one away, leading by 15 at the half but letting Ursinus take the lead with 4:09 to go before finishing on a 12-5 run to beat the Bears 70-65.
Lawrence returns to conference play on Saturday, traveling to Ripon for a match-up with archrivals Ripon College.