BY GRANT RIGGS
At a glance
Thursday, Dec. 1
Women’s Basketball: 5:30 p.m. at home vs. University of Southern Indiana
Men’s Basketball: 7:30 p.m. at home vs. University of Southern Indiana
Friday, Dec. 2
Men’s Wrestling: Battle of The Rockies Dual – 10:30 a.m. at the University of Great Falls in Great Falls, MT
Saturday, Dec. 3
Men’s Wrestling: Battle of The Rockies Open – 9 a.m. at the University of Great Falls
Women’s Basketball: 1 p.m. at home vs. Bellarmine University
Men’s Basketball: 3:30 p.m. at home vs. Bellarmine University
Men and Women’s Track & Field: 4 p.m. at the University of Indianapolis
Women’s Hockey: 7 p.m. at Adrian College in Adrian, MI, Arrington Ice Center
Sunday, Dec. 4
Women’s Hockey: 2 p.m. at Adrian College in Adrian, MI, Arrington Ice Center
Recap of previous two weeks (Nov. 14 – Nov. 27)
After losing three of their last four games, the McKendree men’s basketball team enters the beginning of conference play with question marks. Despite a blowout loss to the University of Illinois, there were some positives. After being forced to go to the locker room from a hit to the nose, redshirt-sophomore guard Nate Michael returned and put up 25 points on 8 of 19 field goal attempts despite the injury. Michael displayed great poise and showed that he belonged on a stage as big as Illinois’ State Farm Center. Without Michael for the next two games because of the injury he sustained, McKendree struggled. In those two games, they defeated Crowley’s Ridge College (a school of 331 students) 90-80 and lost to perennially weak Lincoln University 90-81. Michael then returned for McKendree’s first regular season road game against Trevecca Nazarene University. Despite Michael’s return and a monster 33 point, 22 rebound performance by redshirt freshman center Nolan Gerling, McKendree lost a competitive game 74-70 in overtime. McKendree lacked a solid supporting cast to Gerling in the loss, as Michael was the only other player in double figures with 16 points. McKendree was also 0 for 15 from beyond the three-point arc in the first half and overtime combined. With that kind of shooting, 31.9% from the field, 21.7% on three point attempts, it’s almost a miracle that McKendree nearly won.
Moving forward, McKendree will need solid team efforts to succeed in GLVC play. We’ve seen good individual performances by different players throughout the season in separate games for the most part, such as Nolan Gerling’s performances against Trevecca Nazarene and SIUE, Nate Michael’s outing against Illinois, and Michael Jackson and Justin Blanks performance’s against Crowley’s Ridge. The question isn’t whether or not the McKendree men’s basketball team is a talented team. The question is: can the talent on this team properly jell together?
After a great run of nine straight wins to finish out the season, the women’s volleyball team fell short as they were swept in the GLVC championship game against Truman State University. They then missed the 64-team NCAA championship. Despite the disappointing loss, McKendree has plenty to look forward to next season, as they return 5 of 10 players that saw significant playing time, including back to back Division II Conference Commissioners Association All-Midwest Region Second-Team performer Arela Williams. The bearcats will look for their first NCAA tournament bid since 2014.
This week’s insights
This Saturday, the men’s wrestling team travels to Great Falls, MT for the Battle of The Rockies Dual. McKendree will face four teams throughout the day: Eastern Oregon University at 10:30 a.m., Minot State University at noon, University of Great Falls at 3 p.m. and Simon Fraser University at 4:30 p.m.
The men’s basketball team kicks off GLVC conference play this week with two tough tests, the first against a solid Southern Indiana team that finished with a winning record in the GLVC last year at 10-8. Containing Southern Indiana guards Jeril Taylor (22 points per game) and Alex Stein (23.5 points per game) will be key for the bearcats. Another key matchup will take place in the paint between Nolan Gerling and Southern Indiana center Julius Rajala. Rajala is averaging 18.5 points per game on an efficient 75% shooting. Look for McKendree to get Gerling multiple early touches on offense so he can assert himself and dominate physically.
The men’s basketball team then takes on the seventh-ranked team in the country in Bellarmine. The Knights of Bellarmine, who are coming off of a Division II National Tournament appearance, feature a balanced attack with 7 players averaging at least 7 points per game. Forward Adam Eberhard (18.6 points per game) and guards Al Davis (14 points per game) and Rusty Troutman (12 points per game) lead the way for Bellarmine. Facing an uphill battle, McKendree will need their best team effort of the young season to pull off the upset.
One final note for McKendree basketball: Senior guard David Franklin, who has just one semester of eligibility left, will return after the first semester concludes. Look for Franklin, who was the GLVC’s leading scorer last year at 21.7 points per game, to elevate McKendree’s level of play once he returns.