The Kenyon Lords basketball team (6-12, 3-8), after their impressive win over Hiram College (72-61) last weekend, suffered two losses this past week, first to DePauw University in Gambier (54-58) on Saturday and then at Oberlin College (73-78) last night.
While the Lords took losses in both contests, they were both hard-fought efforts that were decided by only a handful of points. In the game against DePauw, Kenyon demonstrated defensive prowess but was ultimately unable to put up the numbers on offense it needed to come out on top.
Last night, the Lords’ Ugnius Zilinskas ’21 and Kamal Aubakirov ’22 were both in a groove offensively, but the team was unable to stop Oberlin’s shooting onslaught. The Yeomen shot an astounding 62 percent from the field in the second half, compared to just 34 percent in the first. The Lords lost to the Yeomen 73-78.
Kenyon guard and forward Carter Powell ’20, interviewed before last night’s game, explained that close losses can be beneficial for the team’s development in-season.
“You’ve got to pay attention to the good things you do, but you can also fix a lot of mistakes,” Powell said. “And in our league every team is pretty decent, so you just have to be ready to play each game.”
The Lords appeared ready to face the Yeomen. Kenyon led by three points going out of the first half, holding the Yeomen to just 28 points. In the second half, though, the game became a shootout.
With 10 seconds left in regulation, Zilinskas came up with an impressive steal on the baseline. However, he missed two consecutive shots at close range before Oberlin’s Campbell got the rebound and Zilinskas was forced to foul.
It was Andre Campbell in particular who put the game out of reach, scoring a decisive layup to put the Yeomen up by five with 16 seconds left. He also hit two clutch free throws with 2.7 seconds left to put the game out of reach for the Lords once and for all.
For the Lords, the latter stages of the game were marked by missed opportunities and a defense that could not stop Oberlin’s high-powered offense.
The Lords gave up 15 points in turnovers to Oberlin and the Yeomen outscored Kenyon 12-2 on fast break opportunities.
For the Lords, Zilinskas and Aubakirov scored 24 and 17 points respectively, with Powell chipping in 11. For Oberlin, Isaac Finestone and Campbell led the way with 16 points apiece.
As Powell said, moving on from close losses is about taking note of what the team did well and looking for areas of improvement.
In the Lords’ wins this season, they’ve coupled the offensive firepower on display last night with the tenacious defensive they played against DePauw.
Putting the positives from these two games together could propel the team up the conference rankings in these final seven regular-season games, which include rematches against Denison University and Hiram College, who they beat earlier in the season, and Allegheny College, who they lost to by two in a nailbiter on Jan. 11.
Even as the Lords sit below .500 in conference play, they still have a chance to make it to the North Coast Athletic Conference playoffs and make a run.
The NCAC takes the top eight teams and, with the loss tonight, Kenyon and Denison are both tied for that slot for now. On Saturday, Kenyon will play a rematch against Denison, who they beat earlier in the season, in Granville, Ohio. Tipoff is at 3 p.m.