MATTOON -- The first time the Lake Land men’s basketball team faced Vincennes, it was nothing to write home for the Lakers. Even though the Lakers lost the second meeting Tuesday 90-71, there was more to take out of it.
Lake Land came into the first game with nine wins in its last 11 games, but Vincennes, which was ranked No. 3 in NJCAA Division I at the time, had the contest in hand by halftime. The Trailblazers had an 18-lead by halftime and went on to win by 39 points.
That loss started a slide for the Lakers as they lost five of their next six games. The Lakers went from one of the top teams in the district to out of a top five spot, which would’ve given Lake Land a first round bye.
Tuesday was the second meeting between the two and while the score still looked lopsided, the outcome felt a bit different for Lake Land. This time, the game wasn’t over by halftime. The Lakers were in a double-digit hole in the first half, but came back and took a lead.
The Trailblazers led at halftime, but Lake Land took its second lead of the game right away in the second half.
But Vincennes went on another run, this time a 14-0 one, and it was too much to overcome as Lake Land fell to Vincennes at Laker Fieldhouse.
Lake Land coach Brandon Colvin took more positives out of this loss than he did the first time against Vincennes.
“I thought the guys did a lot better, on the defensive end especially. They played hard, they played with some focus,” Colvin said. “The biggest thing, we have to be able to keep that for 40 minutes versus the 35 that we did. That five-minute stretch we went from being up three to being down 11. It’s one of those deals that you can only come back from being down double-digits only so many times. I thought we fought back a number of times.”
Vincennes (28-1) took advantage on the boards. Lake Land (17-12) finished with only 22 rebounds in the game and the Trailblazers almost as many rebounds offensively (17). They finished with 47 boards.
“We have to get more guys crashing, that’s all that is,” Colvin said.
Josh Jefferson led Lake Land with 22 points and Amel Kuljuhovic had 19 points and nine rebounds.
Lake Land hosts Olney Central College for a doubleheader on Friday starting at 5:30 p.m.
Vincennes had an 8-6 lead and then went on a 6-0 run to get some separation early at 14-8. Then an 8-0 run, which consisted of six straight second chance points, put the Trailblazers up 26-15 with 9:17 left in the half.
Lake Land was down 33-9 when the Lakers held Vincennes scoreless for a 3-minute stretch. Lake Land closed the deficit to 33-28 with 4:40 left in the half.
After a Vincennes bucket, Kuljuhovic and Jefferson hit back-to-back three-pointers as Lake Land pulled within one at 35-34.
Vincennes got a layup when Kuljuhovic scored and Allante Harper hit two free throws as Lake Land took its first lead at 38-37 with 2:31 left in the half.
“Being down 14, the guys battled back,” Colvin said. “I thought we were okay after that. Came out in the second half and scored the first seven points to get up three and they made their run. I thought we did a better job defensively.”
Lake Land was 13-of-16 from the line and got Vincennes in some foul trouble. The Trailblazers committed 13 fouls and had five players with two or more fouls in the first half.
Vincennes came back with a 10-5 run before the end of the half to take a 47-43 lead into halftime.
The Lakers had a good start to the second half. Kuljuhovic hit a jumper, Josh Robinson scored and Jefferson hit a three-pointer to give Lake Land its biggest lead of the game at 50-47.
Then Vincennes took over. The Trailblazers went on a 14-0 run and went up 61-50 with 15:12 left in the half.
The Trailblazers controlled the rest of the half and went on to win 90-72.
“I think we did some good things, I thought we played hard defensively,” Colvin said. “That’s one thing I wanted to see.”