By Justin Chapman | Echo
Odle Arena is filled, the music is blaring, the students are chanting, Taylor's men's basketball team is throwing down dunks left and right during warmups. Silent Night is about to begin, and the 10th point is slowly looming.
A new king took the 10th-point throne tonight. Junior forward Jake Heggeland hit a free throw to make the crowd go bananas, making the score 10-8 in favor of the Trojans.
Heggeland scored the first six points for the Trojans, and seven out of the first 10. Although the Taylor Athletic Department tried to keep the fans from storming the court, the response was almost instantaneous.
"It was cool; you (want to) play it off and say, 'It's just another basket,'" Heggeland said. "We hope it is, but hey, it feels good."
This year's Silent Night felt a little different, as the Taylor University Athletic Department restricted the attendance to roughly 2,000 people for safety concerns. Odle Arena was still packed, but not as full as recent years. Roughly 3,500 fans attended Silent Night last year.
The game ended with the Trojans up 13, by the score of 97-84 which is a decent sized cushion, yet not the type of lead the Trojans usually end up with for a Silent Night matchup. Last year Taylor won by 31 points, and the year before by 50 points.
The Trojan defense could not quite stop the Lakers, as Great Lakes Christian shot 48 percent from the field overall. Taylor did not string consecutive baskets and consecutive shots together until late in the second half. However, head coach Josh Andrews saw some positives from the Taylor offense.
"I liked the way the guys played together," Andrews said. "I thought there was good ball movement in that regard. (We) didn't defend at a level that we want to; we (have a) lot of work to do there. I'm grateful for this stretch of time where we get some time to really practice and clean up how we're playing."
The Trojans now have one week until their next game, when they travel to Columbia, Kentucky, for the Lindsey Wilson Christmas Classic.
Sophomore guard Mason Degenkolb contributed 30 points as well as five rebounds to Taylor's victory. He started his high-scoring night with back-to-back threes to ignite Odle Arena.
"We were really unselfish tonight, and I was on the trail end of that," Degenkolb said.
The Lakers threatened to retake the lead when they trimmed the Taylor lead down to one point at 46-45 with 16:58 left to play. Although Taylor shot 63 percent overall from the field, the Trojans did not pull away until late in the second half when their lead grew to 20 points with 1:55 to play.
As a result of Taylor not breaking open the lead until late, many of the bench players did not receive many minutes on the floor. With 1:29 left in the contest, Taylor subbed most of its bench players into the game soon after the crowd began to sing "Silent Night."
Andrews wished more players would have seen additional playing time, but that partly resulted from some of Taylor's defensive miscues and the Lakers' great performance.
A win is a win at the end of the day, no matter how the victory is achieved. Taylor moves to 9-3 this season after yet another successful Silent Night.
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Photographs by Brad Timmerman