By Dan Carr, Assistant AD for Media Relations
THE TIP OFF: With its ticket to the MIAA tournament punched, the Lincoln men’s basketball will try to end the regular season on a high note with a pair of rematches in Oklahoma this week. On Thursday (Feb. 23), Lincoln will be in Tahlequah, Okla. to play Northeastern State at 7:30 p.m. CST, while on Saturday (Feb. 25), the Blue Tigers head to Claremore, Okla. to face Rogers State at 3:30 p.m. CST. The Blue Tigers beat both opponents in Jason Gym back in January, defeating NSU, 76-68, and RSU, 76-74, with the latter victory coming in overtime. LU has won 13 MIAA games and is currently fifth in the standings. Northeastern State, with seven league wins, still is in the mix for one of the last two spots while Rogers State, with 10 MIAA victories, has also clinched a berth.
- On Thursday, Lincoln and Northeastern State will meet for the 15th time, with the RiverHawks leading the all-time series, 8-6.
- The teams last played in Tahlequah, Okla. last season, with the RiverHawks winning, 59-50.
- Lincoln and Rogers State will meet for the fifth time on Saturday, with RSU leading the series, 3-1.
- The Blue Tigers have swept four series against MIAA opponents this season, and have the chance to make it six if they win both games this week.
PREVIEWING THE BLUE TIGERS: Lincoln has three prolific scorers in Artese Stapleton (17.0 ppg., 5.0 rpg., 3.3 apg.), Sai Witt (14.2 ppg., 7.8 rpg.) and Kevin Kone (13.0 ppg.), with Kone additionally leading LU in rebounds with a 12.8 average. Lincoln is out-scoring opponents, 70.1-62.2, and out-rebounding its foes, 39.9-30.5. Franck Yetna is averaging 3.8 boards while DJ Richardson is tallying 8.6 points per night.
HEAD COACH JIMMY DREW: In his first year as the head coach at Lincoln, Drew came to LU following a six-year run on the staff at Division I Central Florida. Drew helped lead UCF to a pair of 20-win seasons and a berth in the second round of the NCAA tournament, and he coached three players who went on to play in the NBA.
LAST TIME OUT
Lincoln 64, Washburn 58
Sam Rautins led five Blue Tigers in double digits with 15 points, DJ Richardson scored 14 and Sai Witt added 11 points as the Blue Tigers won at home against Washburn, 64-58, last Thursday (Feb. 16). Kevin Kone has a double-double with 11 points and 12 boards, and Artese Stapleton had 10 points and three assists.
Emporia State 72, Lincoln 66
The Blue Tigers rallied from an 11-point deficit at halftime to pull within one with 3:04 to play, but Emporia State, riding a 32-point day from Owen Long, escaped Jason Gym with a 72-66 victory on Saturday (Feb. 18). Kevin Kone (17 points, 11 boards) and Sai Witt (14 points, 10 rebounds) each had double-doubles, and Artese Stapleton scored 12 while Sam Rautins added 10 points.
SCOUTING THE RIVERHAWKS: Christian Cook leads a Northeastern State team that scores 70.9 points per night with 16.2 points per game, and Dillon Bailey averages 15.0 points, 4.4 boards and 2.6 assists. Rashad Perkins is third on the list with 12.7 points per contest, and Tylor Arnold is leading NSU with 1.1 steals per night.
NSU HEAD COACH JA HAVENS: After winning three GAC championships in seven seasons at East Central, Ja Havens came home to his alma mater to serve as the head coach of the RiverHawks in 2020-21. Havens won 131 games at East Central and had a winning record every season. In his three seasons at NSU, Havens led the team to a 31-45 record.
SCOUTING THE HILLCATS: Rogers State scores (72.8) nearly as many points as it allows (72.6), with Chris Whitaker leading the team with 14.0 points per night. Joey Saracco is next with 13.8 points and is averaging a team-high 6.8 boards while Sherwyn Devonish-Prince, Jr., who leads the team with 3.4 assists, averages 9.3 points. Kofi Hamilton pulls down 5.6 rebounds per contest and Whitaker averages 2.6 assists.
RSU HEAD COACH JUSTIN BARKLEY: The third head coach in Rogers State history, Barkley is now in his 13th year leading the team and has led the program to at least 16 wins in 11 of his first 12 seasons. Barkley, who won a national title as a player at Northeastern State, has directed the Hillcats through transitions from the NAIA into NCAA DII and now into the MIAA.
SAI ANYTHING: Since joining the lineup on Dec. 19, Sai Witt has given Lincoln a huge spark in every aspect of the game. Witt is averaging 14.2 points, the second-most on the team, as well as 7.8 rebounds, the second-most on the squad. Witt has also dished 21 assists, recorded 17 steals and blocked 11 shots while shooting .454 from the field.
TOP OF THE GLASS: Lincoln continues to be one of the best rebounding teams in the country, averaging 39.9 per night, the most in the MIAA and 17th-most in Division II. LU ranks fifth in DII in rebound margin (+9.4); is 19th in the nation in offensive rebounding average (13.2); and Lincoln is third in the MIAA in defensive boards with 26.7 per game.
THE ART OF SCORING: Artese Stapleton enters the week as the MIAA’s fourth-leading scorer with 17.0 points per game, and he has scored at least 10 points in 22 of his 23 games this season. Stapleton, who has four 20-point games, had a 27-point, 10-assist day in the victory over Calvary. He is also leading LU with 3.3 assists per night, the eighth best mark in the MIAA.
LEADING THE NATION: Kevin Kone has proven to be the country’s top rebounder, as he continues to lead NCAA Division II in rebounds per game with 12.8 per night. He is also leading Division II in offensive rebounds per contest (4.9), while his 294 total rebounds are the third-most by a Division II player this season. Kone’s 7.9 defensive boards per game rate fifth in the country.
DEFENSE! DEFENSE!: The Blue Tigers allow just 62.2 points per game, the 12th-fewest by any Division II team this season. LU ranks third in the MIAA and 34th in the nation in three-point defense (.312), and Lincoln is 63rd in the country in defensive rebounding (26.7). In terms of field goal defense, Lincoln is 49th nationally at .422.
BEST MIAA SEASON EVER: With Lincoln’s 63-49 win over Washburn last week, the Blue Tigers now have 13 MIAA victories on the season. That is the most-ever league wins (in any conference) by an LU men’s basketball team, breaking the previous record of 12, set in 2020-21.
JOIN THE CLUB: The Blue Tiger Athletics Club is a great way to engage with other LU fans while supporting Lincoln student-athletes. Every dollar raised by the club goes towards scholarships, improving facilities and purchasing equipment. To join the BTAC, or to learn more, please visit http://www.LUBlueTigers.com/BTAC.
WATCH LIVE: Fans who are unable to attend a game in person will still be able to cheer on the Blue Tigers to victory via The MIAA Network. All 14 LU home games will be broadcast through a new multi-camera system and can be seen at http://www.TheMIAANetwork.com/LUBlueTigers.
GEAR UP FOR THE GAME: Lincoln fans can get everything they need for the game at http://www.BlueTigersStore.com, the official online store for LU athletics. Everything from jerseys to office supplies can be found on the site, with a portion of all sales going to benefit Lincoln athletics.
NEXT UP: The Blue Tigers travel to Kansas City, Mo. next week to play in the MIAA tournament in Municipal Auditorium.