SOMERS, Wis. – Neither team could score in the final two minutes as Wisconsin-Parkside pulled off its second upset of a top-10 squad in as many tries, leading nearly wire-to-wire to edge No. 3 Kentucky Wesleyan 60-59 on Saturday inside DeSimone Gymnasium.
In a battle between two of the five teams atop the Great Lakes Valley Conference East Division, the Rangers led by as many as 12 points in the second half before surviving the Panthers’ late charge.
A Bryant Smith layup with 11:36 left in the second half gave the home side its largest lead of the night at 52-40. UWP’s lead stood at eight points with 6:06 left before Kentucky Wesleyan ripped off nine in a row to take its first and only lead of the game with 2:31 left. Nick Neari drained a jumper 25 seconds later to give the lead back to the Rangers in what proved to be the final score as neither team could secure a bucket in a wild final two minutes of play.
Zygimantas Riauka recorded a monster block on KWC’s Dazmond Starke with 64 seconds left but the Rangers were unable to turn the opportunity into points, misfiring on a pair of shots and giving the ball back to the Panthers with 29 seconds left. Jeremy Saffold grabbed a key rebound with 4.1 seconds left and was sent to the line. Saffold missed both attempts from the charity stripe as Starke grabbed the rebound and the Panthers called timeout with 3.8 ticks left. Neari emerged as the hero in the final seconds, intercepting the inbounds pass out of the timeout to run out the clock and preserve the win.
UW-Parkside led the entire first half and enjoyed a 37-34 lead at the break.
Colt Grandstaff came off the bench and led the Rangers with 12 points, hitting six of his nine attempts from the field. Saffold added 11 points and six boards while Riauka posted a game-high 11 rebounds along with a pair of blocks and six points. Neari finished with a hard-earned nine points and four steals, collecting the game-winning basket and the game-sealing steal.
Three Panthers finished in double figures with Starke leading the way with 15 points. J.D. Danforth added 10 points and eight rebounds while Cornbread Walker added 10 off the bench.
UW-Parkside didn’t commit a turnover in the first half and finished the game with a 16-2 edge in points off turnovers, forcing the Panthers into 18 miscues. The Rangers additionally enjoyed a 28-18 edge in the paint.
The victory is the Rangers second against a ranked squad in three days after shocking No. 10 Southern Indiana 77-68 on Thursday.
UW-Parkside (12-5) shares the East Division top spot in the GLVC with Southern Indiana. The winner of Saturday night’s Bellarmine-Indianapolis game will join them with a 7-2 conference mark. Kentucky Wesleyan has lost three in a row after opening the season with 14 wins. The Panthers are 6-3 in the GLVC.