Tonight, the Pioneers of Grinnell College come to the ‘Burg.
In its last contest versus Knox on Feb. 10 at Grinnell, the Pioneers’ men’s team put 131 points on the scoreboard, which is the most points they have scored this season, and forced the Prairie Fire men’s team (2-20, 2-13) into committing 38 turnovers. Prairie Fire men’s head coach Rob Purlee hopes his team performs better at home.
“I am not as concerned offensively as I am on defense,” he said. “I think we have good enough ball handlers to handle the press. Twenty-five of the 38 turnovers were committed by kids who had never played against Grinnell before. I would hope that playing at home the number is going to be a little bit better.”
Grinnell freshman Dylan Seelman, who is averaging 15.5 points in just 15.1 minutes per game, is on Purlee’s watch list.
“He is getting better and better every game. He is only a freshman, but he is one of their stars in the making,” Purlee said. “My concern is going to be our ability to contain him, our ability to make free throws and our level of toughness. If we can stick our nose in there and make our free throws and keep Seelman in check, then we are going to be just fine.”
On the women’s side, Knox (9-12, 4-10) lost to the Pioneers by a score of 74-69 inside Grinnell’s Darby Gymnasium on Feb. 10.
Knox’s women’s head coach Emily Cline knows what her team needs to do to hold its own versus Grinnell.
“I think we need to play hard for 40 minutes. We have not done that the last few games. Hard and be focused mentally; that is the key,” she said. “Also, Grinnell shoots the ball well, so we need to defend the perimeter better than the first time against them.”
IC garners revenge
On Tuesday night, the Prairie Fire traveled to Jacksonville, Ill. in hopes of getting a season sweep of Illinois College.
But they were unable to do so.
The Prairie Fire men defeated the Blue Boys of IC 67-63 on Feb. 2 on Tim Heimann Court, but did not have the same result away from the ‘Burg, losing to them by a score of 86-54.
“Completely unacceptable. The ultimate disappointment,” Purlee said about the rematch. “Not a very good representation of what the institution stands for.”
Sophomore Joe Kozak led Knox in scoring with 12 points and sophomore Ben Wetherbee chipped in 11.
On the women’s side, Knox decisively beat the Lady Blues of IC by a score of 68-49 on Feb. 2, but lost to them away from Memorial Gymnasium by a score of 79-61.
“I just felt that we weren’t ready to play from the get-go, so that was frustrating,” Cline said. “Also, IC played really well. They were playing to get in the conference tournament, so give them credit. They have a good ball team, but I was not happy with our effort in the first half. A little better effort in the second half.”
Sophomore Lynn Mueller led the way for the Prairie Fire with 18 points and sophomore Krystyna Williams had 14.
Knox swept by Foresters
Last Saturday afternoon, there were shades of pink on display in the women’s basketball game when the Prairie Fire played host to the Lake Forest College Foresters and lost to them, 70-52.
The Prairie Fire donned their white and purple home uniforms along with light pink wristbands on either arm; some of them had bright pink pre-wrap in their hair. Lake Forest wore their black and red road uniforms, and their players had bright pink pre-wrap holding back their locks. The referees blew hot pink whistles.
The game was a WBCA Pink Zone event. The WBCA Pink Zone initiative is a global, unified effort for the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s (WBCA) nation of coaches to assist in raising breast cancer awareness on the court, across campuses, in communities and beyond.
The defensive play of both teams proved to be the difference in the game. Lake Forest head coach Tamlyn Tills sent her team out in a zone defense to start the game off but made a switch at halftime.
“Our zone in the first half, they capitalized on,” said Tills, whose team was only up three points, 28-25, at the half. “We weren’t moving well in our zone, so we decided to apply some pressure a little bit man-to-man. Luckily that shut them down a little bit.”
Knox started the second half off sluggish, which has been a recurring theme all season long, and Lake Forest went on a 7-0 run.
“We played a lot better in the first half — stuck with them,” said senior Erin Navolio, who went six-for-eight from the charity stripe and finished the game with nine points. “We always have trouble in the second half coming out of the locker room and defending. It was just defense towards the end.”
Cline reiterated Navolio’s thoughts about the team’s defensive play.
“We didn’t play great offensively by any stretch of the imagination. But our defense, we just stopped playing good defense, and that was the difference,” Cline said. “They started making shots because we were playing poor defense; plus, they made some shots, so that hurt. You know, we should have a lot of fire to us — pep. We didn’t have a lot of pep, so that hurt us. We’ve been coming out like that in the second half. I don’t know what the deal is.”
Knox was led in scoring by Navolio and Williams, who also finished with nine points. Junior Jenny Haskell finished with eight points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals, while sophomore Kelly Ricketts had six points and six rebounds.
On the men’s side, the Prairie Fire fell short in a comeback attempt, losing to Lake Forest 71-63. Knox was down by as many as 18, as they trailed 32-14 with four minutes remaining in the first half.
“Personally, I felt the guys showed a lot of heart,” said sophomore Tanner Carlson, who had 21 points, six assists and three rebounds. “We have a young squad — guys competed. We got down the first half. They went on a run, but we responded.”
The Prairie Fire made it a game and fought back from its deficit to make it 59-58 in favor of the Foresters. But Lake Forest’s performance from the charity stripe down the stretch sank Knox’s comeback bid.
“Their coaching staff has done a better job of getting their kids to understand how not to lose basketball games,” Purlee said after the game. “There is not a talent difference between Lake Forest and Knox. They’ve got a post guy that can score a bunch of points. We’ve got a point guard that can score a bunch of points. They just made the plays tonight down the stretch, and we didn’t. Give them credit for that.
“We’ve got good kids, and they play hard. They have high character, but at some point we have to start getting over the hump. Give our kids credit for hanging in there, but I’m sick of losing.”
Knox was led in scoring by Carlson. Kozak had 16 points and a team high seven rebounds and Wetherbee finished with 10 points, nine assists and six steals.