ANNVILLE – One step up, and two steps back. That’s no way to make progress.
On Wednesday night at the LVC Gymnasium, the Lebanon Valley men’s basketball team again spun its wheels in an attempt to identify exactly who it really is. Though the effort was pure, the Flying Dutchmen’s performance was uneven, and they fell to Messiah 65-58.
Lebanon Valley showed spunk and resiliency in the face of a 15-point deficit early in the second half. But LVC just didn’t have enough firepower down the stretch to come all the way back.
The result made the Flying Dutchmen 2-3 on the year and 1-1 in the Commonwealth Conference. The win evened the Falcons’ overall mark to 2-2 and upped their conference record to 1-0.
Lebanon Valley College still leads its all-time series with Messiah 38-16.
“It’s too early to say that,” said Flying Dutchmen head coach Brad McAlester when asked to gauge his team’s progress to this point. “We’re playing hard, and we’ve just got to keep improving. This is supposed to be one of the best teams in the league, or the best team in the league, and we lost by seven.”
Separate runs, before and after halftime, helped produce Messiah’s 50-35 lead with 10:58 to go. But Flying Dutchmen senior Matt O’Brien scored eight straight points for his team, as LVC pulled to within 51-43.
A charity toss from Danny Brooks got Lebanon Valley to 53-47 with 4:41 remaining, but that was as close as the Flying Dutchmen would come. Doing its damage from the foul line, Messiah re-expanded its cushion to double-digits.
“It was a combination of both,” said McAlester. “We need to play better and they’re a good team. We’ve got to beat them. They’re not going to beat themselves. They know how to score.
“We played well in spurts, and terrible in spurts, and we lost by seven,” McAlester continued. “We got it down to six and had the ball. These guys work hard for the most part.”
O’Brien paced Lebanon Valley by pouring in a career-high 23 points. Brooks popped for 18 points and hauled in 11 boards, while guard Kevin Agnew tallied ten points.
Lebanon Valley was charged with 17 turnovers, and the Falcons were credited with 14 steals. The Flying Dutchmen also made just 39 percent of their shots from the field.
Lebanon Valley was outscored 18-9 from beyond the arc.
“Those 17 turnovers were the result of careless passes,” said McAlester. “They (the Falcons) were shooting passing lanes. But we threw some lazy passes.
Lebanon Valley came out hot and notched ten of the game’s first 12 points. But Messiah outscored the Flying Dutchmen 15-6 over the final eight minutes of the first half to turn a 19-16 deficit into a 31-25 intermission advantage.
“We started the game very well,” said McAlester. “We followed the game plan. But then we got tired, got hung up on a couple of screens, and they (the Falcons) can make threes.
“We’ve got to get better at working with the ball,” McAlester added. “Moving the ball. Making decisions. Three-quarters of those turnovers were unforced.”
With LVC struggling in its halfcourt offense, the Falcons opened the second half with a 19-10 burst to push their bulge to 15 points.
For the entire game, the Falcons scored 24 points off of LVC turnovers.
“Matt’s (O’Brien) getting better,” said McAlester. “Now we’ve got to get two guys to have decent games, and we’ll get the win. Teams are keying on Danny (Brooks). And Danny tries to force things a little bit sometimes.”