Lindenwood men’s basketball falls in overtime against McKendree for eighth-straight loss

Vijay+Blackmon+%2810%29+tries+to+dribble+inside+against+his+defender+in+a+November+match+up+with+William+Woods.

James Tananan Kamnuedkhun

Vijay Blackmon (10) tries to dribble inside against his defender in a November match up with William Woods.

Dominic Hoscher, Sports Editor

In a back-and-forth affair that went down to the final moments of overtime, Lindenwood men’s basketball fell just short to the McKendree Bearcats, with the final score being 121-116. 

“It’s a tough loss for our guys because of the things we’ve been going through with a losing streak,” head coach Kyle Gerdeman said. “I thought we played really well in the first half, and obviously you give them credit, they had a great half. Made some big plays, and made some big stops.”

The Lions came out firing from beyond the arc. Inside the first four minutes, Lindenwood was 4-4 from three point land, being led by Vijay Blackmon. Blackmon hit all three of his attempts from long-range to give the Lions an early 16-4 lead in the first half. At the first media timeout, the hosts were 7-8 from the field and had a 20-9 advantage.

 There was a vast difference between the two sides through the opening 10 minutes. Lindenwood had a 30-17 lead before Cameron Scales converted the rare four-point play when he was fouled after draining a three pointer. The Lions were shooting 64.7% as a team from the field and were 5-8 from three point territory, while the Bearcats were 0-6 on their first six three point attempts.

“We found our sweet spots, and Vijay, he started off on fire,” T.J. Crockett said. “Can’t ask for a better start than that.”

With about 7:30 remaining in the first, Lindenwood’s T.J. Crockett was cleared for lift-off. Crockett read a McKendree pass around half court to perfection, intercepting it and taking it the distance for an emphatic slam dunk to give the Lions a 40-24 lead.

“A dunk always helps our momentum,” Crockett said. “In that whole possession, I was determined to get a steal and I’m always trying to get a dunk.”

Coming off of a 31-point outing at Illinois-Springfield last Saturday, Blackmon continued his torrid stretch against McKendree in the first half. He finished the first with 23 points on 7-9 shooting, leading the Lions to a 54-40 lead at the halftime break. Scales also had 10 points for Lindenwood, with nine of those 10 coming off of three pointers.

“We’re lucky enough, as a team, to have a coach like Gerdeman,” Blackmon said. “He’s putting me in the position to have a lot of confidence in me, and when a coach has a lot of confidence in me like that, I just have to produce.”

McKendree started to heat up on the offensive end early on in the second half, entering the first media timeout at 15:22 on a 16-10 run over the Lions in the second. This run would soon make it a one score game, but with back-to-back turnovers around the 12:00 mark, the Bearcats gave the Lions consecutive buckets through Crockett to make it 70-65 Lindenwood. 

With exactly eight minutes left in the game, McKendree moved the ball around to find Logan Kohrmann left wide open for three to make it a 81-74 ballgame. After two missed free throws by Lindenwood, it was Kohrmann again converting the three-point play after being fouled to make it a four-point game.

Both teams traded three-pointers near the 5:00 mark, with Blackmon hitting the first then the Bearcats’ Oliver Stephen draining one of his own to make it a two-point game. One possession later, again it was Stephen from beyond the arc, giving the Bearcats their first lead of the game at 87-86 with 4:41 left.

“They kind of just stayed with what they do,” Gerdeman said. “The ones that they got that were wide open, they nailed all of them. You have to give them credit for making shots and staying with their offense and the way they played.”

Leads were tossed back-and-forth by both the Lions and Bearcats in the next few possessions, with Lindenwood having the 90-89 lead with 3:34 remaining. Down by one with just under two minutes left to go, McKendree’s Aleksandar Davitkov got free for a go-ahead layup to make it 95-94 Bearcats with 1:45 left on the clock.

Crockett answered this score shortly after, hitting a jumper after getting free from his defender. However, the big momentum shift came after an offensive rebound for McKendree that led to a three-point play from Nate Bethel to make it 98-96 Bearcats. 

McKendree went 1-2 at the free throw line to make it 101-98 with about 12 seconds remaining, which was all the time the Lions needed. With just two seconds left in the half, it was Blackmon hitting one of Lindenwood’s shots of the season, draining the three to tie the game at 101-101 and sending it to overtime. 

“The guy closed out on Cam, so he handed it off to me and I saw four seconds left, and it’s a shot I’ve been practicing my whole life,” Blackmon said.

Into overtime, Crockett got the scoring started by hitting a layup, despite being fouled, and then converting the And-One. Blackmon was called for a foul on the next McKendree possession, finishing the game with a career-high 39 points. Anthony Christian hit an easy layup shortly after to make it 106-103 Lindenwood.

Christian’s score was followed up by another Stephen three pointer for McKendree, tying the game up at 106-106. The next possession for the Bearcats ended in a similar fashion, with Davitkov hitting the visitors 10th three of the game and giving them a three point lead.

With around 10 seconds remaining in overtime, the Bearcats again went 1-2 at the line to keep the score as a one-possession game at 119-116. This time, however, the Lions couldn’t hit the late-clutch three as Kace Kitchell missed from the corner. McKendree wrapped up the game, winning by a final score of 121-116.

“I’m proud of my guys and I’m happy for us,” Crockett said. “Vijay had an incredible game, so off that loss, it’s hard to swallow, but we have to try to move forward and move on to the next one.”

The leading scorer for the Lions was Blackmon with his 39, followed by Crockett who had 35. Four players reached double-digits in points, with the other two being Scales, 16, and Luka Radosevic who had 10. 

Lindenwood now sits at 8-11 overall, and are 2-9 in GLVC play this season. The Lions, currently on an eight-game losing streak, host #20 Southern Indiana on Saturday at Hyland Arena.