STEVENS POINT, Wis. -- Wisconsin-Whitewater punched its ticket to the national semifinals with a 74-51 win against Emory in the NCAA DIII championship at Quandt Fieldhouse on Saturday. UW-W, 27-4, will face Illinois Wesleyan, also 27-4, on Friday at the Salem Civic Center in Salem, Va.
The teams didn't settle much in the first half. Emory led early, holding a 12-9 advantage on two free throws by Jake Davis at 14:33. Whitewater came back to go up by seven, 23-16 on Cody Odegaard's 3 with 6:50 left and again with 6:00 left, 25-18, after Steve Egan's layup. Emory did all the scoring the rest of the half, an 8-0 spurt, that gave the Eagles a 26-25 lead at intermission.
Emory shot 42 percent from the floor in the half, Whitewater 38 percent. Neither team was on from long range, UW-W going 2 of 7 and EU 1 of 6. Emory's 5-for-7 free-throw shooting, to 3-for-4 for UW-W, provided the slim margin. There wasn't a double-figure scorer in the first half for either team.
Whitewater turned things around with an 11-2 burst out of the locker room, turning the one-point deficit to a 36-28 lead at the 15:56 mark. Although Emory never led the rest of the way, the Eagles pulled within five, 38-33, on two more free throws from Davis. UW-W had the margin back up to 10, 45-35, and then again 47-37 after KJ Evans' layup with 11:26 left, and the Warhawks lead never dipped below double figures the rest of the way. The difference ballooned to 20, 65-45 with two free throws from Reggie Hearn at 5:37.
Whitewater's shooting eye improved to 72 percent in the second half, while the Warhawk defense limited Emory to 8 of 25, 32 percent. The Warhawks made just 3 of 9 3s, but Emory hit 3 of 16. UW-W won the battle on the boards 36-23.
Evans, a junior forward, led both teams with 27 points, 21 of those coming in the second half. He also earned game honors with 11 rebounds. Junior point guard Quardell Young scored 12 points, and senior guard Alex Merg chipped in with four steals and three assists, both team highs. Emory's Davis, a senior forward, scored 14 points, the only player in double figures for the Eagles. Junior guard Michael Florin led EU with five rebounds and four assists, and junior guard Josh Schattie led his team with three steals.
The Warhawks will be making their fifth appearance in the national semifinals. UW-W finished fourth in 1983, then returned to win the school's first title in 1984. Whitewater advanced in 1989, winning its second championship, and the school earned its third gold trophy in 2012. UW-W enters the semifinals with wins in 13th of its past 14 games.
Emory entered Saturday's quarterfinal having won six of its previous seven contests. The Eagles, who defeated UW-Stevens Point on Friday, ended the season 18-9.