March 7, 2009

 

Wheaton, Ill. – The Wheaton College men’s basketball team defeated UW-Platteville 74-69 in overtime on Saturday night in a Second Round game of the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Tournament. With the win, Wheaton advances to the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Sectional Semifinal for the second consecutive year. Wheaton (27-3) will face Washington University (25-2) on Friday in one Sectional Semifinal, at a site to be determined by the NCAA. The Pioneers end the year with 22-6 record.

Wheaton’s Kent Raymond scored a basket with 10-seconds remaining in the first half to give the Thunder a 27-24 lead at halftime. Wheaton had a strong second half leading by as many as nine points with a 54-45 lead with 5:58 remaining in regulation. The Pioneers scored seven un-answered points to cunt Wheaton’s lead to 54-52 with 4:28 remaining in regulation. Wheaton maintained its lead and held a 62-56 with 1:36 left in the second half. The Pioneers’ Curt Hanson made a three-pointer with 1:05 left in the second half to cut Wheaton’s lead to 62-59 and a layup by UW-Platteville’s Charlie Lohoff cut the hosts’ lead to 62-61 with 25-seconds left. Wheaton’s Ben Panner made one of two free throw attempts for a 63-61 Wheaton lead with 18-seconds left in the second half. Pioneer All-American center Jeff Skemp gave the guests their first tie of the second half when he put the ball into the basket with 6.8-seconds remaining in regulation. A Wheaton shot attempt fell short as the game went into overtime.

UW-Platteville led 65-64, with 2:05 left in overtime when Wheaton sophomore Andrew Jahns drained a three-pointer to give the Thunder a 67-65 lead. On the Pioneers’ next trip down the court Andy Wiele tipped the ball out to create a Wheaton scoring opportunity that resulted in a basket for Panner as Wheaton led 69-65 with 1:17 remaining in the overtime. A pair of free throws by Skemp cut Wheaton’s lead to 69-67, but a Raymond free throw extended the Thunder lead to 70-67. The Pioneers had an opportunity to cut the Wheaton lead to one-point or tie the game, but Jahns stole the ball with 21-seconds left and was fouled. The sophomore made both free throws to increase the Wheaton lead to 72-67. The two teams traded baskets in the final 13-seconds to account for the 74-69 final score.

Wheaton head coach Bill Harris said of tonight’s contest, “It’s what you expect in a tournament game against a great team. It was back-and-forth and in the first half we were emotionally fighting ourselves. We missed a lot of free throws. It was like leaving the bases loaded in the first five innings; you just think that’s going to come back to haunt you.” The longtime Thunder mentor also noted, “I thought our defense was pretty good, even with their great center getting so many points. To win games like that, you have to hit big shots.” He said of the game’s final five minutes, “In the overtime, I thought we played our best post defense of the game. We got a couple tips. You just battle. All you want is a loose ball. Once we got those tips, I thought we were a little bit quicker.”

Raymond led the Thunder with 24 points. Panner contributed 17 points, with five assists. Wiele scored 11 points, with nine rebounds and Jahns added 10 points off the Wheaton bench.

Skemp led the Pioneers with 38 points on 17-for-21 shooting from the field and eight rebounds. He also blocked three shots and had four steals. Hanson added 10 points, with four assists.

Wiele, Wheaton’s senior center said of defending the 6' 10" Skemp, “That was the most difficult battle I’ve ever had. He’s pretty nimble and moves well, and an unbelievable post-sealer. He had some great spin moves against me. There’s nothing to say other than he’s a great player all around.”

Wheaton shot 44.4% (24-54) from the field, with 40% (4-10) from three-point range and 59.5% (22-37) at the free throw line. The Pioneers posted a 50% (27-54) field goal percentage with 29.4% (5-17) from three-point range and 71.4% (10-14) at the free throw line. Wheaton out-rebounded the guests 36-28, with a 15-8 edge on the offensive glass.

UW-Platteville head coach Paul Combs said of the game, “It was an unbelievable environment and great for college basketball and Division III. I was very pleased with our effort. We talk about having no regrets; I don’t think this team should have any regrets tonight. We certainly laid it all on the floor.” He added, “These are two top-five teams playing in the second round of the tournament in a national championship-type atmosphere. Unfortunately, somebody had to lose.” The Pioneers’ head coach concluded, “Give Wheaton credit. They made more plays down the stretch than we did.”