Last Thursday, the Prairie Fire men’s basketball team (2-21, 2-14) played host to the Grinnell College Pioneers and wrapped up their season with a 111-87 loss.
“We just got beat tonight. I thought we played our asses off and we played until the final minute,” said sophomore Ben Wetherbee after the game. “The game didn’t mean anything and we could have easily just laid down and just given up, but we didn’t. We fought hard. They just made more shots than we did.”
The Pioneers shot 46.9 percent from the field in the first half and they had a commanding 58-44 lead as the teams headed into their respective locker rooms at halftime.
In the second half, Knox cut a 20-point deficit down to eight points with 10:23 left in the game. The Pioneers would answer with an 11-4 run and never looked back from that point. In the half, Grinnell shot 36.4 percent from the floor and finished the game with a 41.9 shooting percentage.
In their last contest at Grinnell on Feb. 10, the Fire was forced into committing 38 turnovers. Last Thursday was not much different, as Knox had 37 turnovers.
“You cannot kick it away that many times, but I tell you what, I don’t think the turnovers is the biggest statistic,” Knox men’s basketball head coach Rob Purlee said. “We shot 49 percent from the floor. If we shoot 60 percent then I think we win and that’s not very damn good against Grinnell either. So, the turnovers hurt, but we limited their offensive rebounds enough and shot free throws well enough. If we finish possessions at the basket then we win the basketball game, but we did a really poor job at that. The turnovers were not as big a factor as the shooting percentage.”
The Prairie Fire were led in scoring by Wetherbee, who had 21 points, four rebounds and four assists. Sophomore Tanner Carlson had 18 points, four assists and four rebounds, while sophomore Joe Kozak had a double double, scoring 15 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
The Prairie Fire did not have any seniors on the roster this season and Wetherbee knows what he and his teammates need to do to improve their overall record next year.
“Everybody is going to have to work really hard in the offseason,” he said. “Just make sure we put the time and effort in the weight room to get stronger. Get up our shots during the offseason. Work on our ball handling; just the fundamentals of basketball. Come back rejuvenated and ready to go.”
Purlee echoed Wetherbee’s thoughts about this offseason and hopes his team continues to make progress.
“We have to get a little stronger — polish up some skills,” he said. “As a staff, we have to do a better job of teaching and preparing our kids. We will be better next year; there is no doubt about it. It will just be if we are going to take a step or take a leap. Hopefully a leap, but at this point we will take a step. We got to start winning some basketball games-that is priority one. I hate losing. Losing makes me sick. It is not the representation of the institution that I imagined when I got here. We have good kids. They play hard. They do good in school. They don’t screw around on Saturday nights, but we got to start winning basketball games.”