Double Dip: Men Complete Super Saturday By Earning Program's First NCAA Bid
Feb. 28, 2004
The Lakeland College Men's Basketball Team earned their first-ever NCAA bid with a 60-54 victory over Wisconsin Lutheran Saturday night in Sheboygan to win the Lake Michigan Conference Tournament and an automatic NCAA Tournament birth. The win completed a super day for Muskie athletics as the women's basketball team earned an NCAA bid earlier in the day with a win over Edgewood College.
The Muskies used a balanced scoring attack, including four players in double figures, to overcome 19 turnovers and a defense that allowed Lakeland's offensive stalwart Cory Nickel just eight shots. Nickel came into the game averaging over 20 points per game and 28 in the first two games of the tournament thus far.
But Nickel still found a way to make the key play of the game when he found Nick Howard on a back door cut with a no-look pass to give the Muskies a 53-51 lead - a lead they would never relinquish.
Lakeland jumped out to a 26-21 halftime lead despite just two points from Nickel by holding Lutheran to 25 percent shooting (8 of 32). The Muskies weren't hot but managed a respectable 42.9 percent first half shooting effort for the difference.
The second half was a different story as Lakeland connected on 12 of 20 shots for 60 percent shooting and also hit three of six from beyond the arc. The Warriors could muster just 39.4 percent (13 of 33) but stayed in the game by hitting seven of 17 three-pointers.
A key to the game came at the free throw line where the Muskies hit eight of only 14 attempts. However, this was much better than Lutheran who made just one of two for the game, including zero attempts in the second half.
Ryan Hiir and Nick Zeck led the way for Lakeland with 14 points apiece while Nickel added 13 points and Nick Howard chipped in with 12, including the key basket of the game. Zeck also added 13 rebounds to lead Lakeland while Nickel and Hiir added eight each.
John Urbanek of Wisconsin Lutheran led all scorers with 23 points, incuding connecting on six of 11 three point attempts while B.J. Miller and Kevin Christensen added 10 each.
The tournament championship caps a remarkable mid-season turnaround led by first year head coach Gary Grzesk and his staff. Grzesk's team was 5-9 and reeling from the loss of two starters from the team - one for grades and one for disciplinary reasons. One of the players, Ricky Davis, was the conference's Player of the Year last season. But the team responded by finishing the season on a hot streak to stand at 16-12 as they enter the tournament. Wisconsin Lutheran finished 12-15.
The Muskies will find out who and where they play Sunday evening when the tournament
pairings are announced.