Longwood ends streak, picks up win at Joan Perry Brock Center

Published 8:35 pm Saturday, January 20, 2024

Longwood men’s basketball needed a win, and the team delivered together to take down Presbyterian 80-70 on Saturday afternoon. While Walyn Napper and Szymon Zapala scored 17 points apiece, they had help up and down the lineup for the Lancers (14-7, 2-4 Big South), who improved to 10-1 at the Joan Perry Brock Center.

Michael Christmas hit potentially the biggest shots of the night to preserve Longwood’s late lead, and Leo Nordberg added a career best nine points in the first half in his finest game in the Longwood blue.

“This was a team win,” said Longwood Head Coach Griff Aldrich. “Everybody contributed. I think Szymon was the player of the game [on the videoboard in the arena], but Walyn led us. Leo Nordberg really stepped in and contributed in the first half with some significant minutes. Emanuel Richards keeps playing better and better. He played 26 minutes as a freshman. That’s pretty rare in this day in college athletics, and he was in at the end of the game. That’s real growth from a lot of different guys.”

Email newsletter signup

Six players recorded two assists, all tied for the team lead, and Longwood snared 18 offensive rebounds spread among seven different players.

“Eighteen offensive rebounds, that’s phenomenal,” Aldrich added. “We had nine turnovers. That’s been something that’s really plagued us, and it’s hurt us. That was great. We’re sharing the ball, which is creating more assist opportunities for different people. I think we need to celebrate that and highlight that.”

That team mentality proved to be enough to overcome four Presbyterian (9-12, 1-5 Big South) players in double figures, with Samage Teel leading all scorers with 23 points.

Breaking down the game

The game was a choppy affair that featured 50 total fouls and 64 free throws combined between the two teams.

Teel hit his first five shots of the first half to help Presbyterian build a 34-25 lead as the Blue Hose couldn’t miss early on.

However, Longwood answered, and, fittingly, it was a full team response. While the defense held Presbyterian to four points in the final five minutes of the half, eight Lancers scored on offense to key an 18-4 run. Napper, Zapala and the gang relentlessly attacked the basket, and the Lancers went 10-12 at the free throw line to take a 43-38 lead at the break.

Early in the second half, it was more of the same. Again, Napper sliced to the rim, Zapala went to work on the block, and the Lancer defense was tight.

A 14-4 Longwood run extended the lead to 57-42, capped by a Zapala slam off a Johnathan Massie find.

Teel and Marquis Barnett dragged Presbyterian back in the game, though, with their own basket attacks. Barnett had 10 of his 13 points after halftime, and Teel added 11 of his 23.

Tense minutes at Joan Perry Brock Center

“We had a real dip in the second half,” Aldrich said. “You’re fouling, you’re making really poor decisions on the offensive end with shot selection. Those are things that have to be identified so that we understand we can’t do that if we want to win these close games. It takes a little bit more self-discipline, it takes a little bit more awareness.”

After Teel trimmed the lead to five, Barnett cut it to two with an and-one that made it 70-68 with 2:52 to go.

Christmas provided the timely response for Longwood. With the shot clock winding down, he drained a fadeaway jumper near the elbow for a 72-68 lead, and the Lancer defense compelled a miss on the other end. Christmas had 12 points and seven boards, including three on the offensive glass.

Zapala bullied his way to back-to-back trips to the foul line, and Napper put the game to rest by going 5-6 from the stripe down the stretch. He went a career best 11-14 from the free throw line in the game.

“I thought we made the plays to win,” Aldirch said. “This has been the issue for us in the other games where we’ve gotten a lead and then haven’t been able to close them out. At the end of the game here, we made some plays. I thought our defense was good. They took some contested threes, didn’t make them, and we secured the rebounds.

“Part of execution is going down and making the free throws. I thought Walyn closed out the game by making free throws. 11-14 from the line, and really commanded the team there. I thought that was great. Szymon, obviously, I know he wanted to make a few more, but we were up five, he misses one, goes and gets his own rebound and then steps right back up and makes two. Those are big plays.”

Another one at Joan Perry Brock Center

Longwood wraps up the two-game homestand by hosting Gardner-Webb on Wednesday, Jan. 24. Tip is set for 7 p.m. at the Joan Perry Brock Center. The game will air on ESPN+ and on the radio on WVHL 92.9 Kickin’ Country.