Men’s Basketball: No. 1 and No. 2 may meet again


Feb. 26, 2014

By Justin St. Peter

In any other Division-III conference in the country, the Warhawks men’s basketball team would be the No. 1 seed in its conference tournament.

Being ranked No.2 in the latest poll would typically give them the No. 1 seed.

Instead, the ’Hawks head into the WIAC tournament as the No. 2 seed, thanks to the UW-Stevens Point Pointers (24-1 15-1 WIAC record) being the No. 1 ranked team in the country.

The Warhawks (22-3 13-3 WIAC record)  are coming off a blowout 82-57 win on the road against UW-Eau Claire (10-15 3-13 WIAC record) on Feb. 22.

The ’Hawks dominated down low, winning the rebound battle by 13 and outscored the Blugolds, 46-26, in the paint.

Pat Miller

“Overall, I was pleased having not played for a week and playing on the road,” head coach Pat Miller said. “We had good energy and controlled the game from start to finish.”

They were led by junior forward KJ Evans, who had 20 points and 12 rebounds.

Senior guard Eric Bryson chipped in 20 points.

The Pointers and ’Hawks will receive first-round byes in the WIAC tournament.

The Warhawks are undefeated at home and will host the highest seed remaining in the tournament at 7 p.m. on Feb. 28.

Barring any upsets, the Warhawks will face the No. 3 UW-La Crosse Eagles (16-9 10-6 WIAC record). They have split the season series with the Eagles, with the home team prevailing both times.

In the first contest on Jan. 22 against the ’Hawks, the Eagles shot a season-high 62.5 percent from behind the arc. The Eagles won that game, 88-83.

“La Crosse obviously gives us a challenge with their ability to shoot the basketball,” Miller said. “They shoot well from the perimeter and are a very a good team.”

In the second matchup, the Warhawks were able to hold the Eagles down and cruised to a 63-45 win on Feb. 12.

If the No. 6 UW-Oshkosh Titans (12-13 7-9 WIAC record) were to upset the Eagles, the ’Hawks would face the winner of the No. 4 UW-Platteville Pioneers (15-10 10-6 WIAC record) versus the No.5 UW-Stout Blue Devils (12-13 7-9 WIAC record).

The ’Hawks have beaten the Pioneers by double digits both times this year.

If both opening-round WIAC tournament games result in upsets, the ’Hawks would play the Blue Devils. The Blue Devils handed the ’Hawks their first loss of the season, 74-69, on Dec. 7, 2014.

The Warhawks got their revenge, winning 70-59 at home on Feb. 1.

The ’Hawks dominated down low, outscoring the Blue Devils, 40-20, in the paint.

Assuming the Warhawks and Pointers both win their Friday matchups, the top two teams in the country would face off in Stevens Point on March 2.

The Pointers won the first matchup, 79-67 on Dec. 11, 2014. The ’Hawks then handed the Pointers their only loss of the year, 81-76, in overtime on Feb. 5.

The Pointers boast the best scoring defense, best defense and offensive field-goal percentage, best three-point field goal percentage and the third-and fourth-best scorers in the WIAC in guard Tyler Tillema (20.2 points per game) and forward Trevor Hass (17.7 points per game).

The ’Hawks have the highest scoring offense at 79.5 points per game, highest scoring margin, most steals per game and best turnover margin.

Evans is averaging 16.3 points per game and leads in rebounds with 8.2.

Senior Reggie Hearn is No. 12 in scoring at 12.7 points per game and is third in field-goal percentage at 55.4 percent.

Reggie Hearn

“I played well some games, and some games I played average,” Hearn said. “I don’t really know how to explain it. I stepped up when they need me to.”

The Royal Purple staff prediction has the ’Hawks defeating the Eagles and remaining perfect at home for the year.

The Pointers, unlike last year, will take care of business as No. 1 seed. In the championship game, the ’Hawks high-powered, balanced offense will get the best of the Pointers’ stout defense and win a close game on the road.

With the win, the Warhawks might even be able to get the No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA tournament.

Hearn agreed.

“If we come to play the way we did when they came up to Whitewater, we should be able to take it from them in Stevens Point,” Hearn said.

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