Longwood men’s basketball grit, grind to win at St. Francis Brooklyn

Published 2:59 am Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Road wins are earned, not given, and Longwood men’s basketball gutted out a 63-57 win over St. Francis Brooklyn on Tuesday afternoon.

On a night when points were tough to come by, Isaiah Wilkins was a walking bucket for Longwood (6-5). He totaled a season-best 22 points to lead the Lancers on a night when the offense was out of sync for stretches. The senior went 9-14 from the floor and finished three points shy of his career high.

Wilkins scored at all three levels for the Lancers, mixing in soft jumpers and moves around the basket with four made threes. He was half of Longwood’s three-point attack on the night, as the Lancers went 8-13 from distance.

“Isaiah is a really talented, gifted player,” Aldrich said. “It was fun to watch him be free and be able to score the ball so well. He adds so much for us when he’s able to put points on the board like that. He gives us such a critical weapon that we need.”

The Longwood men’s basketball team also hit the glass hard. They snared 14 offensive rebounds with six different players grabbing at least one. It helped offset a night when the offense shot .388 (19-49) from the floor.

St .Francis Brooklyn (4-6) countered with 14 points from Rob Higgins and 10 points from Josiah Harris, but Longwood’s defense made the Terriers work for every point. The Lancers held St. Francis Brooklyn to .357 shooting (20-56) from the floor and .250 (5-24) from three-point range.

‘The mark of a good team’

“I was really proud of the guys for gutting out a win when they weren’t playing their best,” said Longwood head coach Griff Aldrich. “That’s the mark of a good team and a mature team, to have the character to fight through and still make the plays when you need to make them to come out on top. The guys did that tonight.

“Zac had that great block at the end,” Aldrich added. “Walyn made two free throws, DeShaun hit a clutch jumper to put us up four. So many good plays at critical times was really the difference.”

Longwood led by as much as 11 early in the second half after Wilkins canned a straightaway three, but St. Francis Brooklyn battled back into the game by forcing Longwood to turn the ball over. The Lancers turned it over a season-high 20 times.

The Terriers tied the score at 43 with a 9-0 run with nine minutes to play. Wilkins went back to work and scored back-to-back buckets to stem the tide and help settle the Lancers. Walyn Napper hit a fastbreak layup, and Jesper Granlund drained a three from the wing off a Napper pass. Roy Clarke hit a bucket for St. Francis Brooklyn, but Wilkins again answered.

Longwood men’s basketball has the answer

While St. Francis Brooklyn cut the lead to two multiple times in the final four minutes, the Lancer had the answer every time. DeShaun Wade hit a shot with less than a minute to play to make it a two-possession game, and Napper hit both shots in a one-and-one that did the same thing. Zac Watson also came up with a big block with less than 30 seconds left that preserved a four-point lead. He finished with seven points and 10 rebounds.

“We obviously had a very uncharacteristic night for us on the turnover front,” Aldrich said. “Again, I think so much of that goes back to an execution mindset and our focus on executing the details and having an every possession matters mindset. When you have a night like you have tonight, it is very clear for the guys to see what it looks like when you do and what it looks like when you don’t. Every season is a journey, and every team has its own journey. But I really hope that our guys will be able to take the lesson that we really have to dig in and be urgent to execute on every single possession. That will be the key to our season.

The Longwood men’s basketball team wraps up their five game road trip with a matchup against The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina on Saturday. Tip is set for 1 p.m., and the game will be aired on ESPN+ and on WVHL 92.9 Kickin’ Country.