The IWU men’s basketball team suffered a 99-71 at the hands of No. 1 Grace College on Wednesday. The loss was the Wildcats’ first since Nov. 21, which also came against Grace.
“There are not a lot of words to describe that from our vantage point other than a good ole fashioned butt-whooping,” head coach Greg Tonagel said after the loss. “Tip your hat to Grace, and we got to go back to the drawing board and work on some things.”
The 28-point loss is the largest in the Greg Tonagel era, and 71 points ties a season-low scoring output for the Wildcats. IWU had previously won 13 games in a row and were 10-0 at home.
Junior guard Griffin Kliewer said the Wildcats came in with a good game plan but failed to execute it.
“It was definitely a well-played game on their end,” Kliewer said. “It came to those 50-50 balls. They’re a big team, we’re a big team, and we’re both really skilled but in those heavyweight matchups, it comes down to those loose balls.”
In the first matchup between these two teams, the Wildcats took a 52-41 lead into the halftime break before the Lancers fought back to win 93-82. Coach Tonagel said he was surprised by the difference in the team’s play from the first game to this one.
“I’m shocked. I didn’t expect us to lay down like that,” Tonagel said. “It was their night. It wasn’t ours.
The Lancers National Player of the Year candidate Elijah Malone poured in 26 points and had seven blocks in the victory. Grace won the rebound battle by 11 and hit 11 more threes than IWU.
“They just out-hustled us,” Junior Nolan Mader said. “It just wasn’t us tonight. We’re gonna get back to work, we’ve got a big game Saturday.”
With seven conference games remaining, the Lancers have a two-game lead over the Wildcats and a four-game lead over Bethel and Huntington for the top spot in the conference. IWU could potentially face Grace one more time in the conference tournament and Tonagel said the Wildcats will have plenty of time to learn if they get to play the Lancers again.
“We’ve got a lot of time and a lot of practices ahead of us,” Tonagel said. “Hopefully, we can capture this feeling in a way that we show up every day to get better.”
The Wildcats will take on the No. 18 Bethel Pilots on the road on Saturday. IWU held on for a four-point win against Bethel in their first matchup.