Griff Aldrich reaches 100 wins as Longwood’s streak continues

Published 9:58 pm Sunday, December 17, 2023

On Sunday afternoon, Longwood men’s basketball extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 12 straight games, while also helping Head Coach Griff Aldrich hit a milestone. 

Fittingly, the defense did the heavy lifting for Longwood (12-1) in a 68-49 win over VMI that also marked Aldrich’s 100th career win at the helm of the program.

“It’s neat. It’s a nice milestone, but I really think it is a milestone for the program,” Aldrich said postgame. “I think the vision, and I talk about this a lot, the vision that President Reveley had to build a program that the university could be proud of, I get a lot of credit, but it really has been an institutional initiative. We wouldn’t be where we are otherwise with this new arena, with the Basketball Performance Center. That really translates into being able to recruit the right people. Taylor Reveley, Tim Hall [Athletics Director], Courtney Hodges, who’s the head of advancement, Matt McGregor, who’s the CFO, this has been a huge institutional initiative, and we’re seeing the fruit of everyone’s hard work.”

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The Lancers were suffocating throughout the game and forced a season-high 27 turnovers, and the team grabbed a season-best 15 steals in the process against VMI (2-10). Walyn Napper had five steals, one shy of a career best, and Jesper Granlund added four while Johnathan Massie had three.

In addition, the Lancers stayed unbeaten at the Joan Perry Brock Center by holding VMI to a .391 shooting percentage without giving up 30 points in either half. It marked the 15th and 16th times the Lancers have surrendered fewer than 32 points in a half this season.

Defense turned to offense

Meanwhile, the defense turned to offense on a night when jumpers weren’t falling. The Lancers turned the turnovers into 24 points the other way, gobbled up 15 offensive rebounds, and muscled in 56 points in the paint despite going 2-18 from three.

The trio of Napper, Szymon Zapala and Massie led the charge on offense, with Napper posting a game high 19 points. Zapala added 15 points, and Massie chipped in 12 with a team best eight rebounds.

The first half was a nip and tuck affair, as both sides shot below 40 percent from the floor. Neither side led by more than seven, but Zapala had eight of his 15 points in the half to help the team hold a 29-26 lead at the break

The second half started in much the same fashion, but Longwood’s defense, as they have in many second halves this season, found another gear. 

The driving lanes that VMI attacked early evaporated, and the Keydets only saw the swarming arms of the Lancers.

“I wasn’t pleased with our execution defensively, particularly in the first half,” Griff Aldrich said. “I thought we were too soft and on our heels. Even at the beginning of the second half, their ball screen gave us fits all night. Probably at about the 14 minute mark, we really started to defend the ball screen. Johan and Szymon did a really nice job. I thought our guards did a much better job getting in front of the ball, and then they were left going one-on-one. That’s where we really saw things start to turn. They had to start driving into gaps, and that’s where the turnovers started being created.”

With the Lancers up 38-36, Massie scored back-to-back buckets with 12 minutes to play to get Longwood off to the races. The Lancers forced 10 turnovers in a 7-minute, 29-second stretch while going on a 20-1 run that decided the game.

Griff Aldrich looks ahead 

Longwood returns to the road to take on N.C. Central on Wednesday, December 20 at 3 p.m. in the team’s final game before the holidays. The game will air on WVHL 92.9 Kickin’ Country.

“We’ve got to lock in,” Aldrich said of the rematch against N.C. Central. “We need to learn from this game that we need to execute better and better and better. We need to be hungrier than we are. I’m going to challenge us to have a better approach leading into the Central game on Wednesday.”