NEW ULM - Foul trouble can be a problem for any team, but when it prevents two of your starters from playing key minutes in a close game in the second half, it just might be too much to overcome.
Unfortunately for the Martin Luther College men's basketball team, this was the case in a 79-71 Upper Midwest Athletic Conference loss to Northland College on Saturday.
Galen Holzhueter, the Knights' leader in both points and rebounds, was one of the key Knights that fell into foul trouble as he was only able to finish with a season low two points in the game.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Martin Luther College’s Luke Rothe (24) gets past Nathan Sharp of Northland for a layup during the first half Saturday at MLC in New Ulm.
"Galen was being pushed a lot and we kept asking for a displacement call from the referees that we never got," Knights assistant coach James Danell said after filling in for Head Coach James Unke on the MLC bench. "When Galen only scores two points in a game that is an unusual thing."
Knights starting center Joshua Danell was leading the team with eight rebounds in the first half, but then also had to sit for a long stretch after he picked up his fourth foul at the 15:30 mark in the second half.
"Josh was playing very aggressive in the first half, but then had to play a little careful there down the stretch, which hurt us as he had those four fouls," Coach Danell said.
MLC went into halftime feeling good after it ended the first half on a 17-9 run to lead Northland 39-31.
The second half started with neither team really making a run as the Knights stayed comfortably ahead. That is when both Danell and Holzhueter had to leave the game one right after the other as both got their fourth fouls called on them.
That is when Northland took advantage.
Northland went on a quick 11-0 spurt that was paced by three 3-pointers made in four possessions as the Lumberjacks went ahead 57-56 at the 7:39 mark in the second half of the game.
After Knights guard Kaleb Buch made the only 3-pointer that MLC made in the second half to put the Knights ahead by two, Northland then scored the next seven points and took the lead for good as it held off MLC for the conference win.
The Knights struggled in the second half shooting from the outside as they only made one 3-point shot out of the 13 that they took down the stretch.
Coach Danell thought that this was a key in the loss.
"We had a six-minute stretch in the second half where we just could not buy a hoop," he said. "We had good opportunities, we just did not capitalize on them when we needed to."
The Lumberjacks got huge contributions from Carnell Sheppard and Adrian Flores in the game. Sheppard finished with a game-high 27 points while hitting five 3-pointers against the Knights' defense.
Flores was a force inside for Northland, finishing with a double-double, scoring 19 points and grabbing 18 rebounds on the night.
The Knights's performance was especially disappointing in light of their huge win over then conference leader St. Scholastica the night before.
"These weekend back-to-back games are always tough in UMAC basketball," Coach Danell said. "You have to bring energy one night and then bring that same energy the next night. We just did not bring the intensity today we needed."
MLC (2-14, 1-4) will play host to the University of Minnesota-Morris on Friday.