Men’s basketball takes the lead

%3Cem%3EPhoto+by+Brett+McMillan%3C%2Fem%3E%0AInjured+player%2C+Brett+Thompson%2C+stays+still+while+he+is+checked+for+harmful+injuries.+

Photo by Brett McMillan Injured player, Brett Thompson, stays still while he is checked for harmful injuries.

Michael Sprague | Lindenlink Contributor

The Lions basketball team had an overwhelming size advantage in their season and home opener Friday Nov. 9 against the Greenville College Panthers. LU’s 6-foot-11 senior center, Brett Thompson, had 14 points in a 95-62 victory at the Hyland Arena.

 Fourth-year head coach Brad Soderberg said getting the ball to Thompson was tough, but once he had it, he could not be stopped.

Photo by Brett McMillan
LU player rests as he put all his energy into the game.

The fact that we just had a definitive size advantage was huge,” Soderberg said. “They tried to extend the court defensively so we couldn’t get the ball to Brett at times, but he was so dominant once he got it.”

The size advantage will be a constant throughout the season for the Lions. Only one other player in the MIAA trumps Thompson’s 6’11 frame.

Senior guard Alex Bazzell led all scorers with 18 points. He says establishing the big men was key.

It’s definitely important to get our bigs going because they’re so huge to our success,” Bazzell said.  “Especially when they run the floor like we love to do we want to reward those guys.”

Establishing players like Thomspon and senior forwards Cody Sorenson, Efkan Eren, and junior forward Gerrett Reeg created opportunities for LU guards. “The majority of the time [defenders] are going to double us so that leads to kick-outs,” said Thompson.

Bodies congregating down low plays right into Bazzell’s dribble-and-drive strategy. 10 of his 18 points came by way of the free throw after driving and picking up the foul.

That’s his game,” Soderberg said. “If you look back at last year’s stats he shoots a phenominal number of free throws and its part of our strategy as an offensive team.

The Panthers started fast, building a 9-5 lead four minutes into the game. An 11-3 run over the next five minutes had the crowd of 1,018 thinking the Lion’s were going to break things open early.

A shooting percentage of 60% from the floor in the first half should have been enough to  build the Lions a comfortable halftime lead. Instead, a displeased Soderberg watched 10 first-half turnovers halt any serious run the Lions tried to make.

We’re going to work on that.” Soderberg said in reference to the turnovers. “Before you can be really good, you have to eliminate all the things that cause you to lose and one of those contributors to losing is excessive turnovers.”

The Panthers capitalized on many of the Lions’ early mistakes and the game was tied 43-43 at half time.

They can make you look ugly and they did in the first half. They made us look ugly.” Soderberg said.

The offensive strategy remained the same in the second half. Defensively, though, the Lions stepped up their game.

After shooting 49% from the field in the first half, the Panthers went cold. LU held Greenville to just six baskets on 31 shots in the second half.

Twenty-eight second half rebounds, led by many of senior Richie Thompson’s game high of 12, limited the second chance points for the Panthers. LU again shot over 50% from the field for the half.

Ten minutes into the half, LU had opened up an 18 point lead and did not look back.

With the win, LU moves to 1-0 on the season. Greenville fell to 0-1.

Team strategy will fluctuate as opponents change, but Bazzell says his team is ready for anyone.

We have a well balanced team and that will help us in the long run,” Bazzell said.

They were undersized so we were able to expose them down low. Now when we play a bigger team we are going to expose them with our transition game.”

The Lions next take the court on Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. against Wesminster College at the Hyland Arena.