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The Scarlet & Black

Men’s basketball picks up two key wins

Dylan Bartuch ’15 drives down the court versus Illinois College on Tuesday. Photo Credit John Brady

The Pioneer men’s basketball team claimed two key wins to stay in the conference tournament race this week. Coming off of a string of losses, they bounced back to beat Beloit College 128-110 on January 24 and Illinois College 113-74 on January 27. 

Dylan Bartuch ’15 drives down the court versus Illinois College on Tuesday. Photo Credit John Brady
Dylan Bartuch ’15 drives down the court versus Illinois College on Tuesday.
Photo Credit John Brady

Head Coach David Arseneault pointed to the energy provided by home court advantage as one of the reasons for the two-game win streak.

“Young teams are usually better at home than on the road. When we are at home, our fan support provides an emotional lift during the tough times. On the road you need to learn how to provide your own energy rather than just feed off the crowd,” Arseneault wrote in an email to The S&B.

Members of the team also pointed to a greater collective focus in the practices prior to the game against Beloit.

“We held each other accountable and pushed ourselves in practice more so than we did the rest of the season,” said Nick Curta ’17, who raked in seven rebounds and dished out two assists in the Pioneer victory.

Braedon Bayer ’18, who netted 12 points for the Pioneers against Beloit, highlighted the maturation of the first-years on the team as a central component to success.

“We relied on five first-years in this shift in a must-win game,” he said.

Curta echoed Bayer’s sentiment, praising the team’s attitude.

“To their credit they came in ready to play and to win. It was fun to watch,” Curta said.

The Pioneers led by just four points in the first half before first-year Jacob Ekstrand ’18 helped spark a 10-0 run with a pair of three-pointers that gave the Pioneers the momentum to strengthen their lead.

Senior leaders Jack Taylor ’15 and Luke Yeager ’15 complemented the solid first-year play by scoring 32 points and 23 points, respectively, to close out the win for the Pioneers.

Yeager continued his scoring dominance on Tuesday night against Illinois College, sinking a game-high 25 points on 5-of-9 from the three-point line, driving the Pioneers to a 113-74 win.

Despite Illinois College’s 3-14 record heading into the contest, the Pioneers knew that they could not afford to overlook the Blueboys.

“We can’t take them lightly. Each game is a must win from this point forward,” Bayer said.

Grinnell opened up the game on a 20-4 run and never looked back from there, cruising into a near 40-point victory. Bayer racked up 10 points and six assists while Taylor tacked on 18 points and Julian Marx ’17 netted 12 points.

“We played an IC team who had no experience versus our system. Not one of their top eight players had played a single minute against us. When you combined their discomfort with our good shooting it was easy to see why we won by such a significant margin,” Arseneault wrote.

Tague Zachary '15 fends off Illinois College.  Photo Credit John Brady
Tague Zachary ’15 fends off Illinois College.
Photo Credit John Brady

The win pushed the Pioneer men to 6-5 in the Midwest Conference and 9-8 overall, which puts them in fifth place in the conference standings.

With the season entering its final phase, the Pioneers have their eyes on the Ripon Redhawks of Ripon College, a team Grinnell beat at home 112-96 on January 10. The Pioneers will travel to Ripon, Wisconsin this Saturday for the game. According to Curta, it should be a shootout.

“When you have three of the top four scorers in the game, it’s going to be entertaining to watch,” Curta said, referring to Taylor, Yeager and Ty Sabin of Ripon, some of the Midwest Conference’s best shooters.

A win versus Ripon will propel Grinnell into fourth place in the conference standings. The top four finishers in the standings at the end of the season will compete in the Midwest Conference Tournament to decide the champion of the conference. Play versus Ripon begins at 3 p.m.

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