Knox’s men’s basketball team won their season opener this past Tuesday night, beating Eureka College by a final score of 75-60. This win also snapped a six-game losing streak, dating back to Feb. 5, 2010.
Knox jumped out to a 9-2 lead in the first five minutes and never relinquished the lead after that. The Fire took a 47-26 lead into the locker room at the half on the back of 12 points apiece from junior guard Ben Wetherbee and versatile sophomore forward Ian Horvath.
Although Eureka outscored Knox in the second half, the Fire used nine second-half points from senior forward and co-captain Matt Goedeke to ice the game.
Goedeke and Wetherbee led the team in scoring with 15 points apiece. Horvath finished with 14. Junior forward Joe Kozak had eight points and led the team in rebounds with seven.
Although the win was one of great importance for a Knox team that had won just four games over the last two years, this victory also reveals some challenges the team faces moving forward.
The team’s field goal percentage dropped considerably in the second half. The Prairie Fire’s 28 second half points were inadequate considering the 47 point explosion in the first half. Some of this, of course, may be attributed to an offensive slowdown given Knox’s sizable advantage.
Nevertheless, third-year head coach Rob Purlee believes each victory requires group effort, attributing their first win to the bench’s performance in the first half.
“I think we got great effort from our bench, especially in the first half,” Purlee said. “We talked about playing lights out, and I thought our bench, in that first half, was lights out, so it was a big reason we had a big lead.”
Although Purlee acknowledges that the basketball team underperformed in the second half, he remains optimistic that his team will improve with more experience throughout the season.
“We’re older, which means we’re stronger,” Purlee said. “We [have] a little more game experience, and I think we’re playing with a lot of confidence right now. That’s probably the biggest difference from the last 2 years until right now.”
The team’s next game will be Thursday night against Central College. The game starts at 7:30 p.m. in Memorial Gym. Central dropped their season opener against Monmouth College 84-73 on Monday night. Central reached the NCAA Division III Tournament last season.
Afterwards, the team will take on Rockford College at home on Nov. 24. They will kick off Midwest Conference play at Ripon College on Dec. 3.