NEW ULM - If a college basketball game was only 20 minutes, the Martin Luther College men's basketball team would be a lot more successful this year.
Unfortunately for the Knights, there is a second half and that has been the achilles heel for them lately. Despite leading at halftime, the Knights faultered down the stretch and lost to Crown College 89-72 in a Saturday evening Upper Midwest Athletic Conference men's basketball game at MLC.
The Knights came out with much more defensive pressure in the first half then usual and that was a point of emphasis going into the game against Crown.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Martin Luther College’s Michael Paulsen (22) attempts a layup after stealing the ball from a Crown College player during the first half Saturday at MLC in New Ulm.
"With their big guy we knew we had to put more perimeter pressure on them," MLC coach Jim Unke said. "Their point guard was also out with a concussion and so we thought we needed to put pressure on their guards and force them into some turnovers."
The Knights did force Crown into 16 first-half turnovers and led 34-32 at the half.
The second half started with neither team really pulling away as both teams traded leads and buckets for awhile. After a 3-point basket by MLC freshman Luke Rothe tied the game 54-54, Crown's Anthony DiLoreto made 3-pointer of his own to give the Storm a three-point lead.
Nick Krop then hit another 3-pointer and pushed the Crown lead to six. Coach Unke thought those two made threes were the difference in the outcome of the game.
"They hit those two open 3-pointers and we made a couple of bad passes that really hurt us," Unke said. "We never really got back into the game after that."
MLC had trouble stopping 7-foot-1 inch center Anthony DiLoreto the rest of the way as Anthony scored 14 out of his team-leading 20 points in the second half.
"We got a little undisciplined on defense in the second half," coach Unke said. "We did not execute down the stretch like we did in the first half."
The Knights were able to get within eight when Galen Holzhueter, who had a game-high 24 points, made a jumper to cut the Crown lead down to 68-60 at the 5:40 mark. But that was as close as MLC got as Crown executed and made 12-of-13 free throws down the stretch to pull ahead at the end of the game.
Unke thinks his team is really close though to putting a full game together.
"Our margin for victory is narrow," he said. "When you can narrow your loss down to two possessions that is something to build on going foward."
MLC (1-6, 2-16) will host rival Bethany Lutheran College at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night.