The Roosevelt University men’s basketball team was served a helping of humble pie last week.
After starting the season on a school- record 9-1 tear, the team’s ‘easy’ part of the schedule was winding down and a much tougher schedule was on the horizon. A showdown with defending NAIA Division II National Champion, Cardinal Stritch (Milwaukee, Wisc.) was right around the bend and the Lakers needed to be ready.
So, before the season had even started, Roosevelt head coach Joe Griffin intentionally scheduled a game two days before the tilt against Stritch with Moody Bible Institute (Chicago, IL), just to iron out some kinks.
But on Thursday (Dec. 12), Moody Bible showed up at the Lillian and Larry Goodman Center and proved to be much more of a formidable opponent than Roosevelt had anticipated, despite having only one win on the year. The Archers raced to a 37-31 halftime lead that left Coach Griffin stymied.
“We don’t know how to play a full 40 minutes of basketball,” he said. “We didn’t respect our opponent.”
Fortunately for Roosevelt, they only needed to play hard for the latter 20 minutes to disband of their pesky opponent, outscoring Moody Bible 45-20 in the second half and ultimately prevailing 76-57.
Junior forward Joe Harks led the way for the Lakers as he scored a game-high 21 points (7-for-13) and Roosevelt
notched its 10th win of the year — a full three weeks ahead of when they secured their 10th win last season (Jan. 3).
But if the Lakers wanted win No. 11 on Saturday (Dec. 14th), they would have to get it by going through Stritch, their biggest test of the year.
Last year, Roosevelt lost to Cardinal Stritch (Wolves) twice by double-digits. In their last meeting, the Lakers were without defensive stalwart, 6-foot-6 forward Jeremiah Jackson, but yet, only trailed the Wolves 35-31 at the half. Although they would eventually lose, team members may have realized how far they have come, using it as motivation for Saturday’s matchup.
“This is the game we’ve been waiting for,” Griffin said before tip off.
They may have to wait a little longer.
Following an hour delay due to complications involving a snowstorm that had blanketed the area, Roosevelt came out of the gate and took it right to Cardinal Stritch. The Lakers held the Wolves to just nine points midway through the first half taking a 15-9 lead. Then, Jackson exited the game after being whistled for his second foul, opening the floodgates for the Wolves.
From there, Cardinal Stritch showed why they are the defending champs as they went on a 26-4 run to take a 16-point lead, and held a 40-25 halftime edge.
Needless to say, Griffin was less than thrilled.
“We just got beat by a better team in all facets of the game,” Griffin said. “We need to play harder … our defense in transition is like a sixth grade club team.”
Any chance of a second-half rally by the Lakers was quickly extinguished as Derek Semenas, Chicago Collegiate Athletic Conference’s (CCAC) player of the week, sparked a 12-2 spurt to start the period and the Wolves would lead by as many as 32. The Lakers shot an abysmal 28 percent from the floor (17-60) and went only 1-10 from beyond the arc — a credit to Cardinal Stritch’s defense.
“They just took out some of our best players with their pressure, which, we’ve had trouble with this year,” starting point guard, Tyree York, said.
York was one of the few bright spots for Roosevelt on a dismal afternoon. The Lakers’ floor general pumped in 11 points and yanked down 7 rebounds, and was still hustling for loose balls when the game was out of reach. He left the game with a minor ankle injury in the final minutes of the contest, one that the Wolves won handily, 71-45.
“I felt like we played hard which wasn’t the case in the past few games,” York said. “I felt we came out ready.”
Roosevelt may have to play a lot harder if they plan on winning against top-caliber competition, something Coach Griffin knows all too well.
“We lost to a team that’s better than us, but hopefully we can catch them when we play them up there,” he said. “This should be a wake-up call for the locker room.”