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Defense will be the key when the Lakeland men's basketball team opens the Northern Athletics Conference Tournament Tuesday night at Wisconsin Lutheran.
The sixth-seeded Muskies (14-11) face the third-seeded Warriors (18-7) at 7 p.m. in Milwaukee.
Lakeland and WLC met once this season, and the Warriors made 20 of 38 3-point shots on Jan. 19 at Lakeland en route to a 103-94 win, the most points given up by Lakeland this season.
In conference games, Lutheran led the league in scoring offense (91.9 points per game), 3-point percentage (41.1 on a league-best 492 attempts) and 3-pointers made per game (11.2). WLC has scored over 100 five times this season, winning all five times.
WLC has five players averaging double-figure scoring, led by 6-foot-4 senior Marcus Zondag (17.9), 6-4 junior Kyle Plath (15.7) and 6-2 junior Danny Behm (15.4). All three have attempted over 100 3-pointers this season.
Lakeland is second in the NAC in 3-pointers made per game (9.9), and senior Kris Saiberlich scored a career-best 39 points when the teams met earlier this season, making 10 of 15 3-point shots. Saiberlich leads Lakeland in scoring with 17.5 points per game, while seniors Aaron Regal (13.1) and Shane Grube (11.4) are also vital to Lakeland's production.
"The challenge will be trying to defend them better than we did last time," said Lakeland head coach Kyle Brumett. "They've been scoring on everybody. When we played the first time, we were among the league leaders in scoring defense, and that game we didn't do a very good job.
"They challenged us because they have so many different guys that can shoot the 3. We've just got to do a much better job guarding the 3."
Brumett and the Muskies would love to see a repeat of last season. Lakeland played at WLC in the NAC quarterfinals a year ago, and held the Warriors to 15 first-half points en route to a 51-50 victory.
"What I talked to our guys about is the conference tournament game last year," Brumett said. "We were both high-scoring teams, and we clamped down defensively. I hope we will be a lot better defensively, and that's going to be our focus Monday in preparing for them."
The Lakeland-WLC winner advances to the semifinals to face the winner of No. 7 Edgewood at No. 2 Marian. That semifinal game will be played Thursday at the home of the highest seed.
For the complete NAC Tournament men's bracket, please click here.