Despite a strong start and fast finish from the Geneva College (Pa.) Golden Tornadoes, the Lords men’s basketball team earned a riveting 65-61 victory through scrappy defense and the proficient scoring of Ugnius Zilinskas ’21 and Elijah Davis ’22, who scored 20 and 18 points respectively.
The Lords, who finished with a record of 2-23 last year, started this season off on the right foot. Nearly a year to date from when Geneva beat Kenyon 72-57 in Tomsich Arena, the Lords exacted revenge on the Golden Tornadoes on their home court, Metheny Fieldhouse.
After Geneva opened up the game with an 8-2 run, the Lords’ hot offensive hand and disciplined zone defense lead to a 39-28 lead at the half. This was capped off by a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Zilinskas, who lead the team in the first half with 13 points.
In the second half, Geneva fought back through tough inside play. The Golden Tornadoes scored 36 of their 61 points in the paint, compared to Kenyon’s 22. They drew fouls early and often. Geneva was in the bonus with 11:54 still to play in the second half. However, the Lords’ fouls in fact helped them, as the Golden Tornadoes only shot 41.2 percent from the stripe.
Even so, the second half was the story of Geneva slowly chipping away at Kenyon’s lead. With 3:28 to play, the Golden Tornadoes briefly led the Lords 57-56 after a layup by AJ Stroop.
Late in the game, a defensive blunder by Geneva proved costly: With two minutes left, they switched to a man-to-man defense. Davis, who had created shots for himself time and time again in the second half, took advantage of a mismatch, taking Geneva’s Mike Melewski to the paint and hitting a short-range jumper to make it 61-59.
After a layup by Geneva’s Ethan Moose tied the score up again at 61, it was Kenyon’s free-throw shooting that carried them to the finish. In the final 48 seconds, Zilinskas went 2-4 on two trips to the line, and Davis put the game out of reach with just under two seconds remaining by hitting two from the line. Kenyon would win 65-61.
A Lords team that looked run-down last year was characterized by its energy on Monday night. Kenyon’s bench contributed 15 points. The team scored 21 fast-break points compared to Geneva’s two. Their fast-paced style is what gave them the lead in the first place, and they never let up.
The Lords’ home opener will take place this Saturday against Muskingum University in Tomsich Arena at 2 2 p.m.