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The Lakeland College men's basketball team begins competition in the Northern Athletics Conference Tournament Tuesday as the Muskies vie for the NAC's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
The fifth-seeded Muskies (19-6, 12-4) travel to River Forest, Ill., to take on the fourth-seeded Cougars (10-15, 10-6 NAC) of Concordia University Chicago in a 7 p.m. tip at the Geiseman Gymnasium.
The two teams met once in the regular season with Lakeland posting a 94-72 win in the Moose and Dona Woltzen Gymnasium on Dec. 10, 2011. Junior Jake Schwarz led the team with a game-high 26 points, while sophomore James Oshkeshequoam recorded a career night with 25 points on 8-for-11 shooting.
The winner of Tuesday's quarterfinal will take on the winner of a game between No. 8 Marian University and No. 1 Concordia University Wisconsin on Thursday at the home of the higher seed.
The Muskies enter the postseason on a three game win streak, including a 103-69 win over Rockford College on Feb. 18 in the NAC Challenge Game. Lakeland finished tied for second in the NAC North with Edgewood College and a win on Tuesday would net the team's first 20-win season since the 2005-06 season when the Muskies went 21-6.
Lakeland enters its third-straight NAC Tournament seventh in the nation in scoring offense (89.6) and the Muskies also lead the NAC in nearly every statistical category.
Lakeland ranks first in field goals made per game (31.0), 3-point field goals made per game (9.9), 3-point field goal percentage (39.1), free throws made per game (18.2), free throw attempts per game (24.7), free throw percentage (73.9), assists per game (16.7), turnovers per game (12.1) and rebounds per game (37.8).
In its two previous NAC Tournament appearances, Lakeland has fallen in the quarterfinals, but this team's goal is bringing home a NAC Tournament Championship.
Head coach Aaron Aanonsen is excited for tournament play to begin and has high expectations. Lakeland will use the depth of its roster and depend on senior Josh Regal and junior Jake Schwarz to help lead the team in the postseason, much like they did in the regular season.
Schwarz is the nation's sixth leading scorer (25.2) is sixth in 3-point field goal percentage (48.2) and is 14th in free throw percentage (88.2). He leads the NAC in scoring, 3-point field goal percentage, free throw percentage, rebounds per game (9.2) and points (618).
Regal averages 12.5 points per game and is sixth in the nation in assists per game (6.4).He is 22nd in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.47), while sophomore Justin Ward is 12th in blocked shots per game (2.5). Ward is third in the NAC in scoring with 17.0 points per game.
The Cougars enter the tournament as South Division Co-Champions with Benedictine University and carries the No. 4 seed despite having a losing record overall.
Concordia Chicago is led by Issa Avery and Charles Gordon. The two average 32 points per game and have been the reason behind the South Co-Championship. As a team, Concordia Chicago averages 65.0 points per game and gets to the free throw line 22 times per game, which ranks second in the NAC behind Lakeland.
Concordia Chicago shoots 41.5 percent from the field and hits 66.1 percent from the free throw line, which is second to last in the NAC. Defensively, the Cougars average 9.2 steals per game and hold their opponents to 68.4 points per game.
See what Aanonsen has the team focusing on in practice: http://youtu.be/PPBDPOTWzf8
Live stats are available for Tuesday's game and can be found here: http://www.sidearmstats.com/cuchicago/mbball/xlive.htm .
Live video streaming is also available and can be found here: http://www.cuchicago.edu/live .