MATTOON — The Southeastern Illinois men’s basketball team provided an interesting challenge for Lake Land on Wednesday, but it was because the Falcons were probably not going to put the Lakers on the court.
Southeastern came in with only one win on the season, but it was sandwiched in between two huge games for the Lakers. Lake Land was coming off a win over No. 17-ranked John A. Logan last Saturday and travel to NJCAA Division I No. 3-ranked Vincennes University this upcoming Saturday.
So not only was Lake Land coach Brandon Colvin hoping that Wednesday’s contest against Southeastern wouldn’t be a letdown game, but he also treated it as a dress rehearsal for Vincennes.
On paper, it looked like Lake Land didn’t have a letdown against Southeastern as the Lakers won 120-74 to improve to 14-3. The win also kept Lake Land on top of the Great Rivers Athletic Conference standings with a 7-1 record.
But Colvin saw enough against Southeastern that made him a bit concerned for Saturday’s game.
“I wasn’t happy from the first half. Man-to-man (defense) wise, I thought we played hard. We went zone and the guys kind of took it off and went through the motions,” Colvin said. “That will carry over to Vincennes on Saturday. These games are hard for players to play in, but like I told them, it’s a dress rehearsal for Saturday.
“If we play zone like we did in the first half, we will get beat. I think they understand that. Second half, we made a run and finished it off. We’ve got to have effort for 40 minutes, and I didn’t think we had that tonight.”
Lake Land had seven players finish in double-figures, led by Josh Jefferson’s 17 points. Amel Kuljuhovic added 16 points and seven rebounds, and Kasey Elam had 15 points.
The Lakers were without point guard Josh Robinson, but Colvin said he will be back for Saturday’s game.
“He’s battling a little bit of illness, a little bit of injury,” Colvin said. “He will be back for Saturday.
Saturday’s game at Vincennes pits the top two teams in the District 16 against each other. Vincennes is undefeated in the district, and Lake Land, which is receiving votes in the D-I poll, is in second place with only one district loss.
Colvin said Saturday’s game is “absolutely huge.”
“It’s for first place in the district, and that’s where you want to be at the turn,” Colvin said. “If we get that one and then go to Olney and get that one, we are at a good place going into the turn. You want to win the district, but you also want to be top-five so you get that guaranteed not to be in the play-in.
“We do that Saturday against Vincennes and we will get beat. I do feel like we are deeper this year and on more of a roll, but we have to play better than we did today.”
Josh Jefferson hit a 3-pointer to start the game, and Lake Land scored the first 10 points. Southeastern made it 10-5, but Lake Land went on a 24-8 run to go up 34-13 with 9:56 left in the half.
Lake Land went on to score 33 more points in the first half to go up 67-33.
Lake Land jumped out to an 83-36 lead in the second half and went on to win 120-74.