Longwood wins 11th straight, keeps nation’s longest winning streak

Published 2:18 am Thursday, December 14, 2023

The nation’s longest winning streak in NCAA Division 1 basketball continued Wednesday night, as the Longwood Lancers handled business against Milwaukee. 

Longwood, which currently stands at 11-1, has won 11 straight games after struggling during their first one out of the gate this season. The team kept that energy going on Wednesday, with an 80-67 win at Milwaukee. The 11 straight wins pushed Longwood past Houston for the longest winning streak in the country, and it matches the team’s 11-game winning streak in the 2021-22 season.

Walyn Napper and Szymon Zapala each dropped 24 points, and the Lancer defense smothered Milwaukee (4-7) after a hot start by the home side.

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“I’m really proud of the team today to get a win on the road like this,” said Longwood Head Coach Griff Aldrich. “I think Milwaukee is a very talented team. They shot the ball incredibly well in the first half.

“More than anything, this was a complete team win. Obviously, Walyn and Szymon were fantastic, but you’ve got Michael Christmas with eight rebounds and Johnathan Massie with five [rebounds] and five steals. So many things DA does that don’t show up in the stat sheet were really good. He hit two really big threes that gave us some breathing room both times. It was a complete team win.”

Crunching numbers 

Milwaukee only went 3-18 from three after starting 5-8 from downtown in the opening 10 minutes. Johnathan Massie played a big part for Longwood, as the junior posted five steals, a career best, while adding in 12 points, five boards, two assists and two blocks.

Meanwhile, Napper and Zapala were relentless as Longwood lived in the paint. No one could stay in front of Napper, who scored 14 of his 24 in the first half.

“Walyn is a dynamic scorer,” said Aldrich of Napper’s early rack attacks. “He’s so good getting into the lane, and I think that he had opportunities. Some of it is, when our offense is really flowing, guys like Walyn, who have that speed and burst, opportunities should flow. That’s why I’m always screaming at them to get flow because trying to stay in front of Walyn Napper is virtually impossible, unless the offense is stagnant. Then it’s a little bit easier; it’s set up. But if the defense is moving, good luck.

The senior guard also found Zapala as the two worked wonders in the pick and roll. Napper had nine assists on the night, and Zapala, when he wasn’t rumbling to the basket off a screen, feasted on post-ups to go 10-14 from the floor in his best game as a Lancer.

“Szymon was more aggressive,” Aldrich said of his 7-footer. “Szymon’s a terrific player, but again, this is a young man who is still finding his footing. He obviously started the first half with a couple of travels, and it was like, ‘Hey man, just go score.’ He followed orders—very well, I might add. He’s a tremendous player, and I think he’s just going to get better and better.

Keeping nation’s longest winning streak

The first half was a hotly contested affair that saw neither side lead by more than two possessions as both teams played hot potato with the lead.

After Milwaukee took a 31-29 lead with 5:18 to go in the half, Longwood’s defense stepped up to a new level. The team closed the half on a 10-2 run.

Offensively, Johnathan Massie tied the game with a jumper, and Napper banged home a three after a defensive stop for a 34-31 lead off a Massie assist. Longwood never trailed again. While Milwaukee cut it to 34-33 with 2:40 to go in the half, Zapala promptly hit a layup, and Longwood never looked back.

After halftime, Longwood stretched the lead to 10 early on a DA Houston triple, but Milwaukee again cut the lead to six.

Napper flew in for a layup, and Longwood took off on a 14-2 run over the next 3:48 for a 60-42 lead with 11:05 to go. Zapala poured in seven of the team’s 14 points in that stretch.

From that point on, Longwood had every answer when Milwaukee tried to chip away. The Lancers stayed on top by double digits for the rest of the contest.

What’s next for Longwood? 

“This group of guys right now—one of the best pieces—they’re really hungry to be good,” Aldrich added. “I think there were a lot of positives to take from this game. There’s also some learning pieces. We’re up 18, and we kind of took our foot off the gas. They know that. But that’s the difference with this group. They want to learn. They want to get better. That really starts, honestly, with Walyn, DA, Jesper [Granlund] and Michael. They’re really setting the tone well in that regard. I think it’s having an impact with all the other guys.”

Longwood returns home to host VMI on Sunday afternoon, looking to keep the nation’s longest winning streak going. Tip is set for 2 p.m. at the Joan Perry Brock Center. It is a FACES Food Drive, with three canned food items equaling one basketball ticket. All donated food will go to FACES Food Pantry. The game will air on ESPN+ and on the radio on WVHL 92.9 Kickin’ Country.