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Lincoln men fall late at home to Emporia State

by Trevor Hahn | January 2, 2022 at 12:51 a.m.

It has not been the start Lincoln men’s basketball has wanted for the 2021-22 season, but it found itself in a close battle Saturday with a talented Emporia State team.

The Blue Tigers had the Hornets on the ropes, but were unable to come away with the win and dropped the game 76-69 at Jason Gym in MIAA play.

The loss drops Lincoln to 1-10 on the season and 0-6 in conference play. Despite the slow start, Lincoln coach Ed Wilson is confident his team will get it figured out.

“I wouldn’t trade these guys for the world,” he said. “We will figure it out. We will get it together. We are in here every day. Blood, sweat and tears. Eventually, we will get it and these guys will come through. We will be OK.”

Despite the loss, Wilson had a lot to be proud about for how his team battled against the Hornets (10-3, 5-2 MIAA). The Blue Tigers started the game in a physical man-to-man defense, and it was effective. This kept the game very close for the entire first half with the two teams trading the lead back-and-forth.

Lincoln’s defense did a good job, but it struggled to contain Emporia State senior point guard Tray Buchanan, who came into Saturday averaging 26.4 points per game and he increased that number after a 34-point performance. Coming into the game, Wilson knew his team was going to their hands full with Buchanan.

“Game plan coming in was that we know he was a good player,” Wilson said. “We knew primarily their scoring came from two or three guys, so we wanted to make sure the supporting cast didn’t get going. We were going to do our best to contain him and limit everyone else.”

Despite the big game from Buchanan, Lincoln went into halftime only trailing 40-35. Neither team led by more than six points in the first half.

The Blue Tigers came out of halftime and battled their way back to tying the game at 52 with 12-and-a-half minutes remaining. Lincoln then took its first lead since 24-22 in the first half with a Chuck Wilson 3-pointer from the left corner.

Lincoln was able to hold its lead for the next five minutes of game time until Buchanan knocked down a jump shot to take a 63-62 lead with 6:19 left. The Hornets were able to hold the lead for the final six minutes of the game.

Lincoln’s offense hit a cold spell when it lost the lead. The Blue Tigers were only able to add seven points in the final six minutes, and that allowed Emporia State to take control of the game.

“It could have been a number of things that led to the offense slowing down,” Wilson said. “We’ve got to get better at those things. We will get in the gym and practice more of those late-game situations and hopefully we improve and it can help us win close games down the road.”

With the Hornets taking control of the final few minutes of the game, Lincoln was forced to switch into a full-court trap defense. It was effective and turned the Hornets over on three straight possessions down the stretch.

This opened the door for the Blue Tigers to get back in the game with less than two minutes remaining, but the offense was not able to get shots to fall when it needed it.

Lincoln forward Derrick Woods led the offense Saturday with 19 points, but he fouled out of the game with 3:25 left. Frontcourt mate Josh Wallace was also battling foul trouble throughout the game and he was forced to be a rim protector with four fouls down the stretch. This took away from his aggressiveness trying to block shots.

“We’ve got to play without fouling,” Wilson said. “We do not have a lot of depth at the forward position, so keeping those guys on the floor is even more important. We have lost a couple of big guys, so we have to get better at defending without fouling.”

Lincoln will now start preparing for its trip Thursday to Nebraska-Kearney (5-7, 1-5 MIAA). The Blue Tigers will be looking for their first conference win and trying to snap a six-game losing streak.

Game time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

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