March 6, 2009

Courtesy of Wis.-Platteville Athletics

UW-Platteville closed the first half with a 15-1 run then shot 84 percent in the second half to beat Hope College 83-59 Friday in Wheaton, Ill. during the Pioneers's first NCAA III playoff game since 1999.

The fith-ranked Pioneers will face either the host and third-ranked Thunder or Fontbonne in Saturday's 7 p.m. game. The Pioneers take a 23-5 record into the game, while the Flying Dutchmen finish 21-8.

"It's really a confidence builder," said senior guard Charlie Lohoff, who tied a Pioneer playoff record with eight assists. "We knew we had the ability to win. We just wanted to get one under our belt."

The Pioneers led 23-21 when they started their first-half run. Nick Allen started things with a jumper, and Eric Wall made two free throws. Curt Hanson and Allen made back-to-back three-point shots, capping a 10-0 streak. After a Hope free throw, Allen answered with two of his own. Hanson then drove, scored, was fouled and completed the three-point play with 6.5 seconds left for a 38-22 halftime advantage.

"That was a huge run that gave us a lot of momentum," Hanson said. "It just felt really good."

A Jeff Skemp layin and subsequent free throw gave the Pioneers a 22-point bulge at 55-33, and Mike Shaw made two three-points for a 61-38 advantage with 12 minutes remaining. Hanson's back-door cut and hoop gave the Pioneers an even largest advantage at 67-41. Reid Gibbs' layup pushed the margin to 27 at 83-56.

The Pioneers made 16-19 in the second half and overall made 67.4 percent from the field

Four players scored in double figures, led by Hanson's 20, Skemp's 18, Shaw's 17 and Allen's 11. UWP had 20 assists on their 29 baskets.

"It was nice to see some new blood, to be honest," Lohoff said. "In the last few weeks, we've played (#6) Stevens Point, (#7) Whitewater, and then Point again. It's nice to have someone different who doesn't know you so well. We had more room for our shooters."

Jesse Reimink led Hope with 17 points, but the Flying Dutchmen's leading scorer (21.0 ppg) was held to three by Lohoff in the first half.

"I was real pleased with our defensive intensity, especially the last 25 minutes of the game," said Pioneer Coach Paul Combs.

The Pioneers were 30-5 during the 1990s with national championships in 1991, 1995, 1998 and 1999. Friday's win extended their NCAA playoff win streak to 11 games, the second longest active streak in the country, trailing only the University of Florida's 12. The Pioneers beat Hope 69-56 in the 1998 title game in the only other meeting between the two teams.

"We're trying to use that (tradition) to our advantage, but we also want to make a name for ourselves," Hanson said. "We're the 2008-09 Pioneers."

Combs said he was happy for the Pioneer fans, the many who made the trip to Wheaton, and those who followed from afar.

"I'm most pleased for our community who supports us," he said. "Platteville is a special place."