Illinois Wesleyan edges by UWSP
Rudnicki comes off bench to score 14, helping Titans advance
HOLLAND, Mich. – For the third consecutive year, Illinois Wesleyan won a first-round game in the NCAA Division III tournament, getting a 69-61 win against Wisconsin-Stevens Point at DeVos Fieldhouse on Friday.
The Titans improved to 20-7 while No. 27 Stevens Point bowed out with a 20-8 record.
Illinois Wesleyan, which never trailed in the game, jumped out to an early 21-10 lead with 8:23 left in the first half before the Pointers closed to within four at 23-19 with 4:52 to play before halftime. IWU allowed only one basket, a 3-pointer, the rest of the way while outscoring Stevens Point 8-3 to hold a halftime edge of 31-22.
IWU shot 41 percent from the field in the first half and committed only six turnovers compared to 13 for the Pointers.
IWU led by 11 at 39-28 with 15:56 to go before the Pointers went on 9-0 run to close to within two at 39-37 with 11:35 left.
A 3-pointer by senior Stephen Rudnicki and a layup by senior Eliud Gonzalez on back-to-back possessions got IWU back to a 44-37 lead, one it held on the remainder of the game.
“I thought our defense was very active early,” Titans' coach Ron Rose said. “Defense has been a big part of our identity all season, and when we've played well, it's started on that end of the court.”
Senior John Koschnitzky led IWU with 15 points while Rudnicki came off the bench to add 14. Sophomore Victor Davis had 11 points and senior Jordan Zimmer scored 10.
Gonzalez was the Titans' leading rebounder with seven and handed out six assists.
The Titans shot 44.4 percent in the game (28 of 63) and made only 3 of 14 3-pointers. IWU was woeful at the line, making only 10 of 22 (45.5 percent).
Stevens Point, who led the Titans in rebounding 41-34, shot 34.7 percent (17 of 49). The Pointers made 6 of 18 3-pointers and knocked home 21 of 27 free throws.
Three Pointers scored in double figures, led by Jordan Brezinski with 21 and Dan Tillema with 14 points. Trevor Hass had 11 points and 7 rebounds and Jason Ziemer also collected 7 boards.
“Our guys made no excuses. We were resilient. We wanted to play the hand we were deal with down the stretch,” Pointers' coach Bob Semling said. “We felt we could win a game in the NCAA tournament. We dug ourselves a deep hole to start the game.”