Muskies hold off persistent Knights for season-opening win

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Justin Ward (Sr.-Wisconsin Dells, Wis.) and James Oshkeshequoam (Sr.-Keshena, Wis.) both scored over 20 points to lead four players scoring in double figures as the Lakeland College men's basketball team opened its season with a 92-77 win over Martin Luther (Minn.) College Friday night at the Woltzen Gymnasium.

Ward finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds, while Oshkeshequoam added 23 points, including 17 in the first half. The Muskies defeated MLC for the second straight year and improved to 3-0 all-time against the school from New Ulm, Minn.

Lakeland took big leads early in both the first and second halves but still couldn't put away the Knights until the final minutes. The Muskies shot 48.5% from the field (33 of 68) and held the Knights to 34.2% shooting (25 of 73), but Martin Luther refused to go away.

Lakeland led by as many as 15 points in the first half and took a 49-39 lead into halftime. Oshkeshequoam scored 17 points in the first half as the Muskies got out running, with Ward delivering a pair of thunderous dunks. Brandon Hagenow (So.-Sussex, Wis.) also scored eight points in the first half, including a pair of three-pointers, and freshman Travis Kell (Madison, Wis.) added seven of his 11 poitns in the first half.

The Muskies built the lead to 19 early in the second half, and Ward's third dunk of the game made it 63-44 with 1541 to play. Lakeland's pace was slowed considerably the rest of the way, though, as foul trouble started to pile up, and the Knights hung around.

Martin Luther cut the lead to 81-71 on two free throws by Luke Rothe with five minutes to play, and the Knights got as close as 83-75 late. Lakeland tightened up defensively, though, holding MLC scoreless for two minutes, and the offense responded with a final 9-0 run to pull away.

Ward made 11 of 17 shots from the field and also added four blocked shots. Hagenow joined Ward, Oshkeshequoam and Kell in double figures with 14 points before fouling out late.

Gavin Holzhueter led MLC with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while Rothe added 20 points. The duo also combined for 31 trips to the free throw line, as the Knights made 25 of 37 free throws in the game.

Lakeland returns to the court Monday night when it travels to face the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse at 7 p.m. in La Crosse.