Eight Straight: Longwood men’s basketball continues streak

Published 7:28 pm Sunday, December 3, 2023

Make it eight straight wins for Longwood men’s basketball.

However, win number eight took a bit of work. The Lancer (8-1) defense locked in and locked down in the final 30 minutes, and Longwood outscored Morgan State 71-23 in that stretch to turn a 14-point deficit into an 88-54 win.

The 48-point swing extended Longwood’s best start at the Division I level, and the defense did the damage. Longwood held Morgan State (2-8) to 10-36 from the floor over the final 27:30 of the game.

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“I just told the guys, I’m extremely proud of the last 30 minutes of the game,” said Longwood Head Coach Griff Aldrich. “At the under 12 timeout, they had 31 points. If my math’s right, 23 points in the last 30 minutes of the game. I think that really was the story of the game. I thought we elevated our focus, our energy on the defensive end, and that changed everything.”

Elijah Tucker’s energy, along with Walyn Napper’s leadership, provided the spark to lift Longwood in the first half. Tucker had his finest game as a Lancer with a 17 point, 11 rebound double-double. He snared six offensive boards and was a factor on both ends of the floor. He was one of four Lancers in double figures.

“It’s funny, I knew Elijah had a good game, but I didn’t know he had 17 and 11,” Aldrich added. “Elijah was very active and had some great rebounds when we needed them. He really brought a lot more energy and was really impactful for us.”

Breaking down the stats

Napper stuffed the stat sheet with 13 points, five rebounds, seven assists and four steals, but his impact even extended beyond the box score. The senior served as a galvanizing force to rally the defense in the first half before guiding the team into a rhythm on offense in the second. Michael Christmas and Jesper Granlund each added 12 points.

“Walyn led us,” Aldrich said. “We always talk about wanting the team to be player led. Walyn was the one in the timeouts telling everyone to wake up in the first half. Griff snaps and barks, but when Walyn does it, it has a different impact. When the players do it, it has a different impact. I thought they responded to him, and I thought he really led us throughout the game. Yeah, 13 points, but seven assists. I thought in the second half, we really started to share the ball better, and that made the offense work more efficiently.”

Wynston Tabbs had 12 points for Morgan State, and Kamron Hobbs and Will Thomas added 11.

Looking at the game

Down 31-17 with eight minutes to play in the first half, Tucker jumpstarted a 9-0 run that put Longwood back in the game. He scored five of the team’s nine points, and he started it with an offensive rebound and stick back through contact. The redshirt-sophomore finished the and-one opportunity, and the Lancers were in business.

From that point on, the Lancer defense held a Morgan State side that started 13-17 from the floor to 3-11 shooting over the final eight minutes of the half. Tucker had seven points during those eight minutes as Longwood cut the Morgan State lead to 38-37 at the break.

In the second half, the defense was again sensational. Longwood gave up five points in the first 10 minutes.

Granlund drained back-to-back threes to start the game deciding run. He nailed one off a Napper feed with 15:39 to go to give Longwood the lead for good at 45-43.

“Jesper, when we created separation, he made a few threes and made a few driving shots at the rim in transition,” Aldrich said of the senior. “He just knows how we want to play and knows what we want to do. It’s just a nice security blanket for a coach to have somebody like Jesper.”

Meanwhile, the defense didn’t surrender a point for the next six minutes during a 22-0 Longwood run that saw the lead balloon to 64-43 with 9:07 to play. Longwood never let up and extended the lead to 34 before the final horn.

Up next for Longwood men’s basketball

The Lancers will stay on the road with a trip to Delaware State on Saturday following finals week at Longwood. The Longwood men’s basketball team is in a stretch that sees it play five of its next seven on the road. Tip is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday. The game will air on the radio on WVHL 92.9 Kickin’ Country. Coach Aldrich said he likes where the team is currently at.

“To be 8-1 right now is exciting,” Aldrich said. “I told the team, I’m very excited about this group because they want to be good. They’re trying. I didn’t think we played super clean defensively, but I thought the last 30 minutes, we played hard. We tried to rebound. This is a group, that if they maintain this mindset and this attitude, we’ll be able to clean up more and more of the mistakes and be able to progress to become a better team. I think this team has a much higher ceiling than where we are today, and if we stay on that trajectory, I’m excited to see where we’ll go.”