By Luke Stanczyk
When asked about Lakeland after their win on Tuesday night, BenU men’s basketball coach Keith Bunkenburg said of their next opponent “they could be one of the best offensive teams in the nation”.
After Saturday’s game, it is hard to imagine anyone arguing with Bunkenburg’s assesment.
In a score that may have some thinking they were watching NBA basketball, the Benedictine men’s basketball team dropped a barnburner to conference powerhouse Lakeland by the score of 101-92.
The story of the game was in the first half, as after a back and forth first couple of minutes, the Muskies went on a huge run to take a 16 point halftime lead. They led by as many as 18 in the half.
“[Lakeland forward] Jake Schwartz didn’t miss too many shots in the first half,”BenU junior forward Mark Pace explained. “He gave us problems. When he got going, that opened up opportunities for everyone else.”
The player of the game is sure to be Schwarz, as the junior and Northern Athletics Conference’s leading scorer dropped 32 points and added 12 rebounds for the Muskies.
“He is probably one of the best offensive players in the nation,” Pace said of Schwartz. “They are boosted because of his play. He could probably make any shot on the court.”
Lakeland would stretch their lead out to 20 with nine minutes left in the game. BenU would then go on a bit of a run late in the game, but it was not enough as the comeback fell short.
The game was an offensive onslaught, as both teams shot well from the field (50 percent for Lakeland, 46 percent for Benedictine).
“The game was very fast-paced,” Pace explained. “They didn’t miss any shots in the first half. It was hard to answer back.”
Also, both teams shot well from the free throw line. The Muskies made 33 of their 36 free throws (92 percent), while the Eagles made 25 of their 29 shots from the charity stripe (86 percent).
“They [the referees] called the game a little too tight I thought,” Pace said on the large amount of free throws that were taken. “I thought they could have let us play a little bit more.”
BenU’s senior guard Nate Green, who is second in scoring in the conference, just missed a triple-double by scoring 31 points with nine rebounds and nine assists.
“They couldn’t stop him [Green] in transition as well as penetrating,” said Pace. “He took advantage of that.”
Also for the Eagles, Pace added 15 points and six rebounds, senior forward Ralph Ogelsby chipped in 17 points, and sophomore guard Mike Woolf added 13 points.
For Lakeland, sophomore forward Justin Ward (who is third in the NAC in scoring) added 14 points and six rebounds. The Muskies also got standout performances from sophomore forward Stan McKenzie (14 points, eight rebounds), sophomore guard James Oshkesheguoam (13 points) and senior guard Eric Vandivier (10 points, four rebounds, five assists).
With the loss, BenU fell to 8-5 in the NAC and is now tied for first in the South division with Rockford. They face Dominican on Wednesday, who sits at 1-12 in conference.
“We have to take care of business in practice first,” said Pace. “That will carry over into the game. I know they [Dominican] don’t have a good record, but they have a lot of talent on that team.”