Saturday, January 9, 2010

Gut wrenching loss for Grinnell, plus Muhlenberg and ONU update

Coach David Arsenault and the Pioneers played what might have been their best game of the season Saturday, but they couldn't hold a late lead against Illinois College. The Blueboys (awesome!) rallied late to score the final 11 points in a 116-112 victory at beautiful Darby Gym.

Grinnell falls to 2-8 overall and 1-3 in the Midwest Conference, while Illinois College now is 8-3, 4-0.

Matt Skelly led the way for the Pioneers with 24 points and Dylan Seelman added 15, all on 3-pointers. Grinnell shot 50 percent from the field, a nice effort in "The System," and made 22-of-44 from beyond the arc. That's also 50 percent, for those of you not mathmatically inclined.

And, sure, the Blueboys finished with a high percentage (64.2 percent, to be exact), which is expected by a Grinnell opponent. The one stat that really jumped out was turnovers; Illinois College had only 17, one less than Grinnell. Tough to win in "The System" with those numbers.

Still, it was the Pioneers highest point total since Nov. 27, a span of six games, and their season high in field goal percentage and 3s, despite shooting a season-low 44. You have to feel as if Coach A is figuring out how to work with this group featuring eight freshmen.

Grinnell takes to the road for the first time in conference play next weekend, doing the Carroll-St. Norbert double up in Wisconsin. It begins Friday night at 8 p.m. EST, then continues with Saturday's matchup at 4. Good luck, as always, to the Pioneers.

Meanwhile, in Allentown, Pa., the Muhlenberg Mules of coach Ron Rohn moved back into the top 10 in the Division III Women's Poll this week, then celebrated with a 79-65 victory over Johns Hopkins on Saturday. It was the first game since Dec. 12 for Muhlenberg, which now is 6-0 in the Centennial Conference and 8-1 overall.

Alexandra Chili led the way with 24 points, Kelly McKeon finished with 16 and Sheila Cook added 14 for the Mules, who held the Blue Jays to 41.4 percent shooting while forcing 20 turnovers. A 12-0 spurt early in the second half gave Muhlenberg a 57-42 lead, and Johns Hopkins never got closer than eight points the rest of the way.

The Mules remain a half-game behind undefeated, yet unranked Gettysburg College at the top of the conference standings, with a matchup of those two scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 14, at Gettysburg. Before that, Muhlenberg entertains McDaniel on Tuesday. Hope Coach Rohn and his team can keep it going.

The weekend wasn't as kind to coach Doug Porter and the Olivet Nazarene Tigers, who dropped a pair of games in the state of Kentucky to run their losing streak to four games. ONU now is 7-11 on the season as Coach Porter tries to work with 13 new players, never an easy task in "The System."

On Friday night, the Tigers lost 110-82 to Campbellsville University, the 10th-ranked women's team in the most recent NAIA poll. Simone Coburn led ONU with 16 points while teammate Courtney Neil had 13. I'll just never get use to checking on the amount of playing time each player gets in "The System:" 13 of Coach Porter's charges saw at least 10 minutes in this contest.

Forcing turnovers doesn't appear to be an issue for the Tigers, who turned over Campbellsville 28 times. ONU made only 36.2 percent of its shots, including 8-for-30 on 3-pointers.

The shooting was worse Saturday against Lindsey Wilson College as the Tigers finished 5-for-33 from long range, good for 15.2 percent. Overall, they were at 25 percent, and even forcing 30 turnovers couldn't save them. Lindsey Wilson won 98-64.

Coburn again was the leading scorer, going for 20 points in 16 minutes of run. Danielle Pipal was the only other player in double figures with 10.

ONU returns to home to Bourbonnais, Ill., to play Trinity International University on Tuesday, the first home game for Coach Porter's squad since Dec. 15. Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference play begins next Saturday gainst St. Xavier University, with game time 2 p.m. EST. Hopefully, the friendly confines of McHie Arena will be good for the Tigers.

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