The Knox College men’s basketball team exhausted every ounce of energy but fell short 106-97 in a double-overtime classic against arch rival Monmouth College on Wednesday, Feb. 6.
“I’m proud of my group of guys,” head coach Kevin Walden said. “We battled; we responded; we came back; we fought tooth and nail.”
The game, which featured nine ties and 10 lead changes, was tied 74-74 at the end of regulation and 91-91 at the end of the first overtime before the Fighting Scots took over in the second extra period.
“It came down to the fact we didn’t get defensive stops at the end of the game. That’s been our Achilles heel all year. We ran out of gas,” Walden said.
Though disappointed by the ending, Knox could not have asked for a better start. The Prairie Fire nailed five of their first six three point shots to open up a 19-14 lead.
“We haven’t shot the ball well as a team this year so it was nice to finally get off to a good start,” senior guard Tyler Olson said. Olson and sophomore guard Mitch Murphy knocked down four of the shots that gave Knox the early advantage.
But as the game progressed, the Prairie Fire cooled off, and the Fighting Scots took advantage of their inside depth to take a 45-34 lead into halftime.
“We went with a short lineup again, like we did against Lake Forest. Rebounding hurt us,” Walden said.
Knox was outrebounded 52-37 for the game and gave up 25 second chance points.
But unlike earlier games this season, the Prairie Fire would not give in. The game was tied 50-50 by the 13 minute mark of the second half, and the teams stayed close until the waning moments of the second overtime.
“We were okay at the start of the game offensively, but we got greedy and put up too many quick shots,” Walden said. “In the second half, we passed the ball much better and scored more points.”
Walden specifically cited challenging the post players to play better in the second half, something junior David Jones responded to in a big way.
“Coach wanted us to stop whining about calls and flailing when we felt contact,” Jones said. “We practice drills where we purposely don’t call fouls, so that’s what we played like in the second half. We created gaps for ourselves and powered through, which really worked.”
“When [Jones] fully attacks the rim he’s going to score, and that’s what he needs to understand,” Walden said.
After scoring just four points in the first half, Jones finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds for the game.
Though Knox did not prevail, Walden believes the team took a step forward against the Fighting Scots.
“This is the first time all year we’ve battled through adversity. I’ve been telling them all year about how when you face adversity you need to have even more discipline and we finally did it,” Walden said.
For Olson, who along with junior Eric Miller finished second on the team with 18 points, the game is going to provide confidence going into his last few games in a Knox uniform.
“The team we were tonight is the team we needed to be the entire year,” Olson said. “If we can be this team the last three games, we can win.”
The Prairie Fire (1-19, 1-14 MWC) have two road games against Beloit College and Carroll University, with senior night next Tuesday against Illinois College in between the two Saturday contests.