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WISCONSIN DELLS - Viterbo University overcame a seven-point second half deficit and the Lakeland College men's basketball team suffered a 71-64 loss to the V-Hawks in the consolation game of the JustAGame Winter Classic.
The Muskies lost their second consecutive game, coming up empty in their trip to the Wisconsin Dells and dropping to 7-2 overall. Lakeland had problems offensively for the second straight night and never found a rhythm against Viterbo, an NAIA member from La Crosse which improved to 9-7.
The Muskies shot 44.3%, making 27 of 61 shots from the floor, but hit a season-low 25.0% from the three-point arc and tied a season low with just six three-pointers made.
Jake Schwarz (Sr.-Sheboygan, Wis.) scored 28 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, but was the lone consistent scoring threat. No teammate scored more than 10 points, including Justin Ward (Jr.-Wisconsin Dells, Wis.), who was held to 10 points in the game and just two points in the second half.
The V-Hawks won the game by outscoring Lakeland 25-11 over the final 10 minutes, after the Muskies had taken their largest lead of the game on a layup by Schwarz that made it 53-46 with 10:06 to play. Viterbo used an initial 13-2 run capped by a three-pointer by Alex Diciaula to give the V-Hawks a 59-55 lead with 5:02 left.
The Muskies countered and took the lead back at 61-59 on another basket in the paint by Schwarz with 3:24 to play. Viterbo closed the game on a 12-3 run, though, and went ahead for good when Jordan Laufenberg converted a three-point play for a 64-61 V-Hawk lead with 1:57 to play. Lakeland missed four of its final five shots and also committed two turnovers in the final two minutes.
The game finished with six ties and eight lead changes, all coming in the second half. Lakeland fell behind 10-0 three minutes into the game and trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half. The Muskies did close the half on a 9-2 run to trail just 35-31 at halftime and set the stage for a good start of the second half, when Lakeland looked to be in control until Viterbo went to a backdoor-cutting offense late and rediscovered its own offensive touch.
Alex Koeller led Viterbo with 21 points, making 8-of-11 from the field, and also added seven rebounds. Laufenberg also chipped in 13 points and seven rebounds off the bench for the V-Hawks, who shot 45.2% (28-of-62) and out-rebounded the Muskies 36-32. Viterbo also committed just eight turnovers in the game, including just two in the second half.
Later on Wednesday night, Ashford (Iowa) University defeated Lawrence University 68-52 in the championship game of the tournament.
Lakeland will have little time to dwell on the losses, as the Muskies host Martin Luther (Minn.) College at 7 p.m. Friday night at Woltzen Gymnasium. A live broadcast including audio and video will be available at http://www.lakeland.edu/muskieslive.