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The Lakeland Muskies opened the brand new Moose and Dona Woltzen Gymnasium with an 88-46 victory over Maranatha Baptist Bible College on Tuesday, Nov. 24. The Muskies trailed only once in the game, 3-2, before jumping out to a 23-8 lead with 13:24 to go in the first half and never looked back.
"We came out ready to play right from the get go," said senior Nick Howard. "We found a good rhythm, we found open shots and we put it on them in the first half to build the lead. We continued it in the second half to come out with a big victory."
"The biggest thing was we wanted to make sure our guys were ready to play," said head coach Gary Grzesk. "By the intensity in our defense they showed me that they were ready to play. That was the biggest thing I wanted to see tonight and it definitely worked."
The Muskies were led offensively by freshman Matt Rogers who had 17 points in 17 minutes. Rogers went 5-6 from the field and was 1-1 from the 3-point arc.
"Matt can score," said Grzesk. "He has to get better on the defensive end a little bit, but when he catches the ball on the block and his feet are set he can knock down some shots. That's something I look for him to continue to do."
The two seniors, Germayne James and Howard, also played a key role for the Muskies. Both players scored 13 points, while Howard grabbed six boards and James added eight steals.
"For us to be good the seniors have to play well," said Grzesk. "It is not always points or scoring, but by their leadership and intensity. The other guys feed off those seniors and they did a good job leading tonight."
The Muskies had a great night shooting, especially in the first half when they shot 64% from the field and 55% from behind the 3-point line.
"I think a lot of it was setup by our passing," said Grzesk. "We really passed the ball and moved it. We made the extra pass and hit the open guy. When you did that you are going to knock some shots down."
On the defensive side of the ball the Muskies tallied 24 defensive rebounds and forced 17 steals, while holding the Crusaders to only 35% shooting on the night.
"One of our goals for the season was to be a better team defensively," said Grzesk. "I think it all starts with our ball pressure up top. Both our point guards picked up the ball early and made them work really hard to get into their offense. The other guys off the ball did a great job as well."
The Muskies will be in action over the Thanksgiving weekend twice when they host UW-LaCrosse on Friday, Nov. 25 and then two-time defending National Champion UW-Stevens Point on Saturday, Nov. 26. Both games are scheduled for a 7 p.m. start.