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Millikin men's basketball off to a hot start and 4 other things to know about Big Blue sports

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Kramer Soderberg 4 111521.JPG

Millikin University head coach Kramer Soderberg instruct players during practice.

Calvin Fisher talks about freshmen on the team

DECATUR — After a difficult couple of seasons, Millikin's men's basketball is finally seeing some success again under a new coach.

The Big Blue are 5-3, 1-0 CCIW. The five wins matches their total from the past two seasons (one victory in 2020 season and four wins in 2019-20). 

"You try not to get too lost in the wins and losses when you are taking over a program," Millikin men's basketball head Kramer Soderberg said. "All I'm focused on is changing the culture and getting our guys to believe in what we are doing. Get everyone playing at a high intensity level. Once you do that, then the basketball side of things will slide into place. 

The Big Blue continue their CCIW schedule this week against Elmhurst (7-1, 1-0 CCIW) at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Griswold Center and Carroll (3-4. 0-1 CCIW) on Saturday at 4 p.m. in Waukesha, Wis. Elmhurst is currently the No. 7-ranked team in the poll.  

"(The CCIW) is incredible with three teams in the top 10 (Elmhurst, Wheaton at No. 5 and Illinois Wesleyan at No 2)," Soderberg said. "(Elmhurst) is a special team and they have a veteran program. We will put in a defensive plan that tires to stop what they do best. We will prepare and be ready and it will be another great challenge."

Streak is over

As Soderberg was preparing for his team's game against Augustana on Saturday, he pondered if he should bring up with the team the resent history between the Big Blue and Vikings. 

Going into Saturday, Augustana had won 30 consecutive games over Millikin, dating back to the 2005-06 season. 

"We were aware of the streak and I was going back and forth with whether I should tell my players about it. The run that Augustana has put together over the last 15 years as been pretty incredible and 30 straight losses is pretty daunting," Soderberg said. "I decided to (bring it up) because they are the type of men that attack a challenge and go after it. It was a good motivating tool for them."

Behind 18 points from Calvin Fisher and Cole Laurence, the Big Blue led 36-28 at halftime and outscored the Vikings 34-17 in the second half to win 70-45 and end the streak. 

"I wanted our guys to go in with some confidence and some belief that they could get it done. They really did and we put together a full 40 minute game," Soderberg said. "For me, that has been the game that we were most consistent throughout the entirety of the game. I thought there were games that we have four or five minutes of excellent play together and then have four or five bad minutes. We were locked in a pretty consistent offensively and defensively."

Calvin Fisher

Millikin's Calvin Fisher (12) had his fourth double-double of the season against Augustana, scoring 18 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.

Fisher player of the week

Fisher had his fourth double-double of the season with 18 points and 11 rebounds. The Monticello graduate was named the CCIW Player of the Week on Monday and has averaged 15.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game this season. 

"Calvin has been great. Right when I got hired, I challenged him to approach this season with some intensity and some fire and take a larger leadership role," Soderberg said. "He has done a great job of that. He has always had the skill and talent to put up those numbers and I think he has been put in some spots where he can be really successful."

Cole Laurence

The Millikin men's basketball team defeated Augustana College 70-45 on Saturday at the Griswold Center, breaking a 30-game losing streak against the Vikings and posting the Big Blue's first win since the 2005-06 season.

Women play twice

The Millikin women's basketball team also has two CCIW games this week, heading to Elmhurst University (1-7, 0-1 CCIW) and Carroll University (5-1, 0-1 CCIW) for road games on Wednesday and Saturday.

The Big Blue (5-3, 1-0 CCIW) picked up their first conference win against Augustana on Saturday, 73-62. Elyce Knudsen led Millikin with 20 points six assists, five steals and four rebounds. Jordan Hildebrand had 17 points, five steals and four rebounds. 

Wrestling still unbeaten

The Millikin wrestling team remained undefeated this season (9-0) as they were victorious in a dual meet with Augustana, 32-8, on Sunday at the Griswold Center. The Big Blue face Wheaton on Friday at Wheaton.

Several Big Blue wrestlers are off to strong starts this season as Bradan Birt, champion at 165 pounds at the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) DIII National Championships last season, is 13-0. Brayan Reyes is also 13-0 at 285 pounds. Tommy Russell (125 pounds) is 12-1, DJ Millett (141 pounds) is 11-2 and Peter McCusker (157 pounds) is 12-1. 

Contact Matthew Flaten at (217) 421-6968. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFlaten


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