The Knox College men’s basketball team (1-16, 0-12 MWC) knew over a week ago that its matchup against the Illinois College Blueboys (11-6, 7-5 MWC) would be one that would require extraordinary effort by the Prairie Fire.
“IC is loaded with talent – we’ll have to play really well, and we’ll have our hands full,” Knox College head coach Rob Purlee said in the days before the game.
Last Saturday night, the Blueboys proved that the Prairie Fire’s respect of its opponent was for good reason. Illinois College took the first matchup of the two Midwest Conference foes, 80-68, in front of 700 people at Memorial Gymnasium.
Following a missed three-point attempt by Knox junior guard Tanner Carlson, Illinois College’s Nathan Tucker converted on a three-point attempt of his own with just under seven minutes to play to give the Blueboys a nine-point lead, from which the Prairie Fire could not recover. The Blueboys increased its lead to 12 a short time later before taking an eight-point advantage into the locker room at halftime.
That lead increased to as much as 17 in the second half. Knox battled to within nine before the Blueboys were able to put the game away.
In the loss for the Prairie Fire, sophomore post Lukas Shaw posted a double-double, with 12 points and 10 rebounds, as well as three steals. Carlson led the team in scoring for the second straight game with 18 points. Juniors Joe Kozak and Ben Wetherbee rounded out the double-digit scorers for the Fire, with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
Defensively, the Fire seemingly had no answer for the offense of Blueboy sophomore guard Nathan Kohler, who scored 24 points, including 16 in the second half. Three other Illinois College players finished in double-figures scoring, as well, including freshman Brandon Berry, who scored 16 points off the bench.
Knox had just 10 turnovers in the defeat, compared with 13 for the Blueboys.
Grinnell game postponed
The Prairie Fire’s scheduled matchup with Grinnell College, which had been scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 1 at 7 p.m., has been postponed to Monday, Feb. 14 at the same time. The game will be played immediately following the women’s basketball game at Memorial Gymnasium.
Grinnell, known for its program’s unique style with an ultra-offensive focus, average 110.9 points per game on the season, while opponents are scoring 101.4 points against them. Nearly 60 percent of the shots taken by the Pioneers this season have been three-pointers.
Because Grinnell employs such a unique style, its games are generally well attended.
“Grinnell typically draws one of the bigger crowds at Memorial Gymnasium,” Knox College sports information director Mike Perry said.
Additionally, the Grinnell game has been designated as a “Play for the Cure” game. Players from each team will wear pink t-shirts and warm-ups in an effort to raise breast cancer awareness.
Prior to the game against Grinnell, Knox returns to action for two straight conference games at home this weekend. Friday, Knox hosts Carroll University before Ripon College comes to town Saturday afternoon. Friday’s game time is 7 p.m. Saturday’s game time is 4 p.m.
Next Wednesday, the Prairie Fire travels to Jacksonville for a mid-week rematch against Illinois College at 7 p.m.