Sports / The Prairie Fire / November 6, 2013

Knox drubbed by Western Illinois in tune-up game

Knox College guard Liam Nash, center, tries to get past Western Illinois University's Garret Covington during Tuesday night's game at Western Hall in Macomb. WIU prevailed over the Prairie Fire 97-54. (Courtesy of Steve Davis/The Register-Mail)

Knox College guard Liam Nash, center, tries to get past Western Illinois University’s Garret Covington during Tuesday night’s game at Western Hall in Macomb. WIU prevailed over the Prairie Fire 97-54. (Courtesy of Steve Davis/The Register-Mail)

Coming off Tuesday night’s 43-point defeat, the Knox College Men’s Basketball team is probably counting itself lucky that it will not be facing another NCAA Division I opponent this season.

Before the matchup against the 2012-13 Summit League Co-Champion Western Illinois University Fighting Leathernecks, it had been 27 years since Knox stepped onto the same court as a Division I opponent. The team’s previous game with a Division I opponent was at Valparaiso University in 1986.

One must question the value of throwing this team into the fire so quickly. Knox is coming off a one and 22 season in which opponents outscored the team by an average of 23.3 points per game.In addition to struggling last year, Knox features a significant amount of roster turnover.

With an equal amount of new and returning players, chemistry was bound to be an issue for the team in its first game. Albeit during an exhibition contest, core issues with fundamental team building blocks like chemistry and trust were spotlighted against this especially stout opponent.

Questions of intentional overmatching come up time and again in college athletics as exhibition games are oftentimes scheduled between opponents in which the outcome is all but predetermined.

Knox without a doubt fell victim to such a matchup on Tuesday, facing a mid-major team coming off a 22-win season, the most in the program’s DI history. Regardless of whether or not this game was ever intended to be competitive, it was a tune-up opportunity for both teams and the outcome of the contest reflected that fact.

This game was undoubtedly intended as a confidence builder for WIU, projected to finish fourth in its conference despite finishing second in scoring defense, 12 in three-point percentage and 20 in fewest turnovers nationally. The outcome of the contest was never in question, as WIU led by double digits for 32 of the 40 total minutes.

For Knox, meanwhile this was an opportunity for its players to see a level of competition unparalleled in the Midwest Conference. There are certainly some lessons that can be taken away from this game for the Prairie Fire, who were held scoreless for upwards of four minutes on four separate occasions during the contest.

This can be attributed in part to a lack of interior scoring support, as it is easier to score the closer you get to the hoop. A solid post scorer opens up the entire floor, and is a critical piece for a shot-happy team like Knox. The Prairie Fire scored eight points in the paint to WIU’s 42.

Additionally, Knox struggled in rebounding the basketball. For a team relying heavily on outside shooting, the ability to get long rebounds and convert second chance baskets must be a priority. Knox was outrebounded by a total of 21, grabbing eight offensive boards and 19 defensive rebounds to WIU’s 18 offensive and 30 defensive rebounds.

The strength of Knox’s outside shooting was evident in the first half of the game, as the Prairie Fire knocked down seven of 16 three-point tries. Any time outside shots are being knocked down at a 43.6 percent clip, that is a good thing.

The issue with relying on this attack is that without an interior scoring threat teams will begin to key in on shooters without having to think about double-teaming an interior player. Good teams like the Fighting Leathernecks will adjust. Knox only made three of its 13 outside shot attempts in the second half.

If there is any positive from the game, it is that Knox will face easier opponents in the coming season.

Knox had three players in double figure scoring, including freshman Mitch Murphy with 16 on four of nine shooting including five of six from the charity stripe. Junior Eric Miller pitched in 14 on four of nine shooting from deep and freshman Marcellis Davis scored 10 points in 25 minutes. WIU freshman Garret Covington led the game with 24 points in 32 minutes.

Tags:  eric miller marcellus davis mitch murphy western illinois university

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Julian Boireau
Julian Boireau is a senior majoring in international relations and minoring in French. This is his fourth year working for TKS, having served as co-news editor during his sophomore and junior years. He has been involved in journalism for seven years, serving as opinions editor of the newspaper and editor-in-chief of the literary magazine at Palisades Charter High School in Los Angeles, California. In September 2012, Julian received press credentials to attend the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City, where he reported on remarks by President Barack Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He is also the recipient of back-to-back first place awards from the Illinois College Press Association for front page layout.

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Nov 06, 2013

The lack of basketball knowledge in this article is upsetting to say the least. Also the negativity displayed by the author in regards to his OWN college’s team shows the lack of fan appreciation that he has for the athletes that work day in and out to make themselves the competitors that they are. With direct quotes such as “Regardless of whether or not this game was ever intended to be competitive” shows me the lack of competency that this author displays and i question how he received the position of “sports editor”. Hopefully in the future the Knox TKS will field an author that understands sports and the complexity of the game.

stay thirsty my friends

    Nov 06, 2013

    Hey Will,

    Points well taken. Mostly. But just to clarify, Julian’s a news editor, not sports.


    Nov 07, 2013

    William, I appreciate the nature of your comment thought I do take some offense to your insistence that my article reflects a lack of respect for my peers and absence knowledge of the sport of basketball. I’d like to state that I have nothing but the utmost respect for our college’s student athletes. The time that they commit to honing in their craft while simultaneously keeping up with their academic responsibilities is a sacrifice that demonstrates their deep love for the sport, pure and simple. I would never imply that the result of a game like this stands as a negative reflection upon their passion or determination in regards to basketball.

    The focus of my criticism was intended to be aimed at the practice of NCAA Division I colleges participating in exhibition games against colleges without the means to legitimately compete against them, WIU is allowed the luxury of athletic scholarships, for example. With that said, my analysis of the game itself was rooted in the documented success of the Western Illinois University men’s basketball program and the statistical results of the matchup.

    Could we have pulled the upset in this case? Of course we could have. However, I do not believe that you could reasonably argue that a win was the anticipated result of this game. The fact that you attribute my stating of this argument to a “lack of competency” is the kind of standard issue combative internet statement that I expected to see when I wrote the article, which I admit comes off as harsh.

    To be honest, it would have been much more pleasant for me to write up an article about a game that we had won. I was rooting for us the entire game, but as a journalist I have to tell it like it is, and it was clear to me as I watched this game that the competition was not held on a level playing field. I felt it necessary to criticize this practice of tune up games as a whole, despite the fact that it is a common occurrence in college sports that is unlikely to change. I hope to be writing more positive commentary as the season progresses. I wish for nothing but success for all of our teams and student athletes.

    – Julian Boireau
    Co-News Editor, The Knox Student

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