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The Lakeland College men's basketball team improved to .500 for a 3-3 record overall after downing Benedictine University, 74-66, in Northern Athletics Conference play on Saturday, Dec. 16, in Lisle, Ill.
The Muskies (3-1 NAC) handed the Eagles their first loss in conference play this season in a hard-fought game, thanks to shooting a blazing 65 percent from the field and 57 percent behind the arc in the second half.
Although Benedictine converted on 11 3-pointers for the game, the Eagles had trouble contending with Lakeland's speedy fast break and the inside presence of sophomore forward Matt Rogers, who led the team in scoring and rebounding with 27 points and eight boards.
"I felt like we did a really good job executing our game plan," said head coach Kyle Brumett. "We put the ball in the post, and Matt delivered for us. David Hoerres also had a very good game with nine points."
Although the Muskies stretched their lead to has many as 12 points the Eagles jumped back into contention with multiple made "3's" in the waning minutes of the game, making the score 68-64 with under one minute to play.
However, junior guard Shane Grube scored two of his 15 points on a fast break lay-up with under 30 seconds left to play to increase the lead to 72-64, while the Eagles suddenly went cold from 3-point range to give the Muskies the victory.
"Rebounding and making our free throws down the stretch in the second half were key," Brumett said, as the Muskies out-rebounded Benedictine, 40-31, for the game. "We also had less turnovers in the second half, although we had a few late that didn't help.
"I honestly didn't see Benedictine's 3-pointers having as big of an impact as they did because I was more worried about their point guard (Jared Bailey) and their freshman inside kid (Jacob Carwell). Aaron Regal did a great job of defending their point guard. His play today in general was outstanding, maybe the best of his career."
Regal, a junior guard, chipped in nine points, dished out seven assists and nabbed three steals in the game.
"This was a huge game for us," Brumett said. "To come back from being 0-3 to 3-3 now shows that we can grind out games on the road. Benedictine is a good team that is probably going to be very competitive for the league championship in the future."
The Muskies will be back in action at the Goaltenders/Bankers Classic on Dec. 29 and 30 in Franklin, Ind.
"That will be a very tough tournament for us," Brumett said. "Wabash is very physical, but I think it could turn out a lot like today's game if we repeat our defensive effort and get our offense going a little more. It will be great for us to play teams that we wouldn't normally see."
Lakeland's first game of the tournament will pit them against Wabash College on Dec. 29 at 6 p.m.