The Millikin Big Blue came to Galesburg on Monday to make up a postponed game against Knox men’s basketball.
Millikin came into Memorial Gymnasium after losing to number one ranked Wheaton just days before by only 12 points. It would be another in a series of tough tests for the Prairie Fire, who had just come off a tough week of conference play in which they had lost their thirteenth straight game, and seventh straight in the Midwest Conference. It was a chance for Knox to prime their game without having the outcome affect their standings in games that really matter, but even so, the Big Blue were a tough opponent, and would not go down without a fight.
“It was not an easy game to play,” said Knox head coach Rob Purlee, “I mean, non-conference in the middle of the season that really means nothing except we had to get it made up.”
The team played well and took advantage of several miscues by the Big Blue. Millikin suffered from bad ball control throughout the first half, but Knox suffered from the simple problem of just not being as big or as athletic as their opponent. They were able to run with Millikin, but defense in the post suffered due to the play of Joscar Demby, who collected 14 rebounds, seven at each end, and 13 points. Millikin had four men in double figures, while Knox had three; freshman Ben Wetherbee was on fire, shooting 50 percent from the field, including 5-for-10 from long distance, while sophomore Matt Geodeke collected ten points on 2-for-8 shooting, but he was able to draw the fouls needed, despite being outsized on practically every possession. Senior Clint Moore had, as Purlee put it, “played some of the best he’s played all year”, as he collected 12 points and four assists.
After going into the half down nine points, at 35-26, Knox came out of the locker room on fire, while Millikin’s play was unrecognizable from the first half. They could not hit from distance, going 0-for-12 from three-point land, and they shot free throws miserably, almost bad enough for them to lose the game. Knox ended up outscoring the Big Blue in the second half, 41-36, and as the final minutes wound down, a few crucial turnovers by the Fire and some forced shots were all that stood between them and their first win. Ultimately though, Knox did fall, 71-67 in a game that went down to the wire. Knox stands at 0-14, still 0-7 in conference.
“If we can get to a point where we can get over the 70 point hump,” Purlee said, “cause it’s hard to score 70 points on us in this building, we just can’t seem to get there.”
The offense is turning itself around, and the work done on Monday against such a tough team was admirable, reflecting what the standings do not in the amount of talent the team has.
The Prairie Fire creep ever closer to that point where the wins will pour in and Purlee is optimistic it can come very soon. A road swing greets the team this weekend and a couple of chances to make some in-conference noise against Carroll and St. Norbert, before the second in the Monmouth series on the season.