Sitting 4-1 heading into tonight’s conference battle against Franklin, the men’s basketball team is off to a hot start. AU opened the season with two dominant performances at home against Adrian and Kalamazoo.
Trevor Lucas led the Ravens to a 104-79 victory over Adrian in the opener, pouring in 37 points on 14-16 shooting, including 8-9 from deep. After banking in his fifth three of the first half, a “heat check” from well behind the three-point line, Lucas did his best Michael Jordan impression, shrugging his shoulders as he went back on defense.
Jordan’s pose came in game 1 of the 1992 finals after hitting six threes in the first half against Portland. Bulls fans in attendance couldn’t believe their eyes, and it was as if Jordan couldn’t either. The scene was similar inside OC Lewis, as the crowd grew louder and louder with each shot Lucas buried.
Lucas followed his dominant performance by turning in another strong showing the following night, tallying 22 points, five assists and seven rebounds in an 81-50 victory over Kalamazoo. His strong start to the season justified his preseason recognition as an All-American.
The first road contest of the season proved to be Anderson’s first test. AU traveled to Wisconsin to take on 11th-ranked Wisconsin Whitewater. The Ravens had numerous bright spots. Stanley Duncan scored 27 points, the first of three consecutive big outings for Duncan.
AU also unveiled a 3-2 zone defense, a look that had not previously been shown by this group. The Ravens were able to rattle Whitewater, holding their opponents to only 41 percent shooting.
Unfortunately, AU also struggled to shoot the ball efficiently, eventually falling to the Warhawks 79-70.
AU bounced back with a 102-92 home victory over Calvin in which Duncan put on a show for the Raven faithful. Attempting only 13 shots, Stan racked up 40 points, knocking down seven triples and 13 of 15 attempts from the charity stripe. This tied a career-high in points for Duncan, who chipped in three assists for good measure.
Four other Ravens joined Duncan in double figures in the victory over the Knights.
The strong non-conference schedule was very important for AU.
“Calvin and Whitewater are historically two elite programs,” said Wes Davidson. “They are both NCAA tournament-caliber teams, which is what we are striving to be.
“We came up short at Whitewater, but playing against those teams was a great way to prepare us for the grind of HCAC play.”
A grind is exactly how the HCAC season started.
AU traveled to Earlham to take on a much improved Quakers team in a contest that featured 60 fouls, 67 free throw attempts and 40 turnovers.
The Ravens got a boost from Cole Hartman, making his first start of the season after returning from injury. Hartman quickly dusted off whatever rust he may have had, scoring 23 points in an efficient effort that has become typical for the Raven big. He was 8-12 from the field, 2-2 from three and 5-5 from the free throw line.
Adding Hartman back into the rotation takes an already formidable Raven offense to the next level.
Duncan again led the Ravens in scoring, totaling 26 points and four assists. His scoring average of 25.2 points per game leads the team.
For his stretch of dominant offensive performances, Duncan was named HCAC Player of the Week. He was the second Raven named HCAC Player of the Week this season, after Lucas earned the honors for his performances against Adrian and Kalamazoo.
Looking to build off of their strong opening to the season, AU hosts Franklin tonight, an HCAC foe expected to finish towards the bottom of the conference. The Ravens will then welcome Mount St. Joseph to OC Lewis on Saturday. The Lions received one first-place vote in the preseason coaches’ poll and were voted to finish second in the conference.
No game in the HCAC is a guarantee, and picking up two wins to start conference play 3-0 would build a great deal of momentum for an AU tea with high expectations for the season.
“The games in the beginning of the season showed us a lot,” Davidson said. “When we stay committed to our principles, we can play with anyone in the country.
“In order for us to win the HCAC, we have to stay focused on the disciplines we’ve been taught and come out and play with energy every night,” he said.