UPLAND, IN – In what can surely be described as a special and unique basketball experience, the Lincoln Christian University (LCU) men's basketball team lost to Taylor University (TU) in Taylor's annual "Silent Night" game Friday night, 99-68.
The game was so much more than the score, however, as Taylor's students and campus community came out in droves to pack the Kessler Center arena well past capacity, dressed in their craziest outfits and prepped for madness. As is their tradition, the students and the rest of the crowd remained perfectly silent until TU scored its 10th point of the game, at which point they erupted in impressive fashion, rushing the court and causing a game stoppage of several minutes before play could resume.
A feather in the cap of a young LCU team was its 12-7 point advantage before TU hit a three to reach the bedlam-inducing 10 point mark. The Red Lions came out of the gate on fire, as Garrett Aeilts (FR/Lincoln, IL) buried three straight threes and Zach Thompson (SO/Normal, IL) hit another, all within the first three minutes.
TU found its footing quickly after that, however, and took a commanding 54-29 lead into halftime. Coming out of the break, the Red Lions played TU to even for 14 minutes before falling behind by six in the period.
"It was quite an experience to be part of something like this," LCU Associate Head Coach Brady Cremeens said. "Our guys really seemed to enjoy it, and we played well against a nationally ranked NAIA opponent that proved to be an excellent team. We won the first few minutes of the game, and won the first half and then some of the second period, which is kind of the story of our season so far. We have to learn how to play well for 40 minutes. We aren't there yet."
Taylor's superior size and experience were too much for LCU to overcome in the effort, despite shooting a season high 40 percent from three. Lincoln Christian got outrebounded by nine, but shot 11 of 13 from the charity stripe.
"Tonight was a good opportunity for us to play a top-level team in one of the greatest college atmospheres," Garrett said. "We have to correct our mistakes and build on what we did well for the next game."
Aeilts and Brode Hopkins (SO/Hartsburg, IL) led the way on offense for the Red Lions, each scoring 15 points and combining for 10 assists. Thompson joined them in double digits with 12, and had a team high nine rebounds.
TU saw six players reach double figures in scoring in a balanced offensive attack, and had 10 players score overall.
The loss brings LCU's season record to 3-9.
Moments that Mattered
LCU started out hot as could be from the field. After allowing TU to score the first five points of the game, the Red Lions went on a 12-2 run behind the shooting of Aeilts and Thompson. Zayin Brown JR. (SR/West Palm Beach, FL) added another three to continue the barrage a couple minutes later.
The LCU squad had 18 points – five threes and three free throws – before scoring a two point basket.
Player of the Game
Hopkins, whose 15 points on six of 11 shooting was a season high. He added three assists against no turnovers from the point guard position.
The boys host Goshen College on Saturday, Dec. 17 before breaking for Christmas. The game starts at 3 p.m.