The Lords path to the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) tournament took a huge blow this week in their losses to Ohio Wesleyan 108-82 on Saturday, and to Oberlin 78-63 last night.
The Lords started their week with a loss on Saturday to a red-hot Ohio Wesleyan University squad. Coming in with three wins in their last four games, the Battling Bishops soundly defeated the Lords in all aspects of the game.
Led by two-time defending NCAC Offensive Player of the Year Nate Axelrod, the Bishops defeated the Lords in points in the paint, three-pointers, points off turnovers, fast break points and made free throws. Axelrod himself led all players in points (28), assists (nine), and steals (three). “[Axelrod’s] ability to get to the basket and distribute the basketball creates many problems in game planning,” Head Men’s Basketball Coach Dan Priest said.
His distribution allowed the Battling Bishops supporting cast to knock down open shots. The Bishops were able to shoot 52.9 percent for the game, nailing 42.5 percent of their three-point attempts. By comparison, the Lords only shot 40.6 percent overall and just 36.4 percent from three-point range.
It was a breakout game for Lords forward Ugnius Zilinskas ’21. After battling with injuries for a majority of the season, the six-foot-four-inch first year had 13 points in his first collegiate game with over 20 minutes of playing time. “I’m healthy and I’m getting my confidence back,” Zilinskas said.
The added playing time for Zilinskas and other bench players is something that Priest has been working toward the entire season. “Our team has finally got healthy as we have had injuries to multiple players, so now we are able to have more depth and distribute minutes,” he said.
Last night the Lords dropped another crucial game to the Oberlin College Yeomen 78-63. The Lords had trouble getting the ball inside the perimeter for the majority of the game, eventually falling behind by as many as 28 points. Despite a furious rally late, the Lords were only able to cut the Yeomen lead to 14 until the final buzzer sounded.
Just as OWU had done on Saturday, Oberlin was able to capitalize on many bad turnovers by the Lords. The Yeomen turned 19 Lords turnovers into 23 points while the Lords only scored 14 off of the Yeomen’s 15 turnovers.
Yesterday’s loss was crucial for the Lords’ hopes to make the NCAC tournament later this month, as the Yeomen and the Lords came into play tonight tied for the eighth and final spot in the tourney. Entering the game, Priest knew the implications. “The next two games are critical,” he said on Tuesday.
With their loss, the Lords fall to 3-12 in the conference, only putting them ahead of 2-13 Allegheny. To qualify for NCACs, the Lords need to win at least two of their last three games against Depauw University (6-9 NCAC) on Sat., The College of Wooster (12-3 NCAC) on Wed. and Hiram College (9-6 NCAC) on Feb. 17.