Men’s basketball opens the season victorious

Andrew Zienty

Senior Doug Wallen shoots the ball in a 2019 game against North Central. 
Photo: Illinois Wesleyan University Athletics

After nearly two months, the basketball season was finally able to start with an away game against the Carroll University Pioneers at the Van Male Fieldhouse in Waukesha, Wisconsin last Saturday, January 23.

“Practicing without any games was very difficult knowing it’d be months before we got to play. The only thing we could do was come to practice every day to compete against each other and make each other better. Playing basketball is what we love to do, so as long as we were doing that in some capacity, we found a way to make it enjoyable” senior Charlie Bair said.

IWU won the season opener 74-59 and had the lead at half 33-26. The team was led in points by Junior Pete Lambesis with 24, followed by Matt Leritz with 15.

On top of leading the team in points, Lambesis also led in steals 6, assists 3, and minutes played at 34 minutes.

IWU had 42 points in the paint, which almost doubled Carroll’s 22 points in the paint, and won the fast break point category as well, with 9 points to Carroll’s 4 points.

A category IWU also led in was turnovers, 20-17.

 “As a team, we need to limit turnovers and work on our on-ball defense since we are a big team playing a lot of small teams in the CCIW,” Bair said. 

Like in professional and division one sports, games are postponed or canceled at the slightest COVID-19 contamination or exposure. 

“We have no idea what tomorrow holds or where our season could go. We are happy to treat every practice like prep for a conference title and every game like it is the conference title because we never know when it could all end,” sophomore Cole Khoury said.

Unfortunately, IWU has already been faced with adversity and had its second, third and fourth games postponed due to COVID-19 precautions.

“Something good that stood out from the game was that after nine weeks of practicing without games, we didn’t skip a beat. With the talent that we have, as long as we have five guys giving it their all on the court, there isn’t a team in the country that can match that,” Bair said.

The only time the Titans were losing the whole game was in the opening few minutes of play. After that, the Titans led the rest of the game and won by double digits, which is no easy task in the CCIW since it has been home to several recent national champions and is always placing teams in the NCAA tournament.

With the foreseeable future uncertain for the Titans, it makes it difficult to look ahead at the schedule. The next game on the schedule that has not been postponed is February 4th, against North Central College in Naperville, Illinois.

“The difficult part about playing during the virus is that we have no idea what tomorrow holds. We can get shut down at any day so you can’t take the ‘now’ for granted. The goal for the season is still to win a conference championship and then hang a banner in the arena,” Bair said.