Warhawks win thriller against Illinois Wesleyan

Dec. 3, 2014 By Paul Bressler

Sophomore forward Lisa Palmer started her Thanksgiving early by gobbling up 18 rebounds and clinched a 75-72 victory for the UW-Whitewater women’s basketball team with four free throws in the final 12 seconds.

Palmer’s rebounding performance tied her for the 16th most in Warhawk history and was the most since Tiffany Morton collected 19 rebounds in February 2009.

“I didn’t even know that I had racked in that many rebounds until my coach said something to me after the game,” Palmer said. “I’m never really concerned with my individual stats. I’m more interested in how the team plays together on that particular day. However, it was a pretty cool experience to be recognized for my individual performance and to be a part of history. I am very humbled by it.”

No. 22-ranked Illinois Wesleyan University held an early 5-4 lead before the ’Hawks went on a 9-0 run to take back the lead, 13-5, nearly six minutes into the game. The Titans quickly responded with five straight points and cut the lead to just three. The ’Hawks answered by pushing its lead back to eight and a back-and-forth battle would ensue.

Up four, freshman guard Brooke Trewyn found junior center Emily Jensen under the basket with just one second on the clock to once again give the ’Hawks a six point lead. Regaining the lead seemed to spark a mini-run, and the team took a 41-35 lead into the second half.

The Titans opened the second period with a 13-3 run and took a 48-44 lead at the 14:18 mark. They pushed their lead to nine, 62-53, and put a struggling ’Hawks team on the ropes with less than seven minutes left in the game.

Trailing 66-69, Trewyn came up huge and rescued the ’Hawks late. She followed up on her own miss and then converted an old fashioned three point play to tie the game at 71 with only 41 seconds to play.

IWU took the lead, 72-71, after converting on one of two free throws with 27 seconds left in regulation. Palmer then went to the charity stripe with 12 seconds remaining after pulling down an offensive rebound. After sinking both, Palmer gave the ’Hawks a 73-72 lead and sealed the victory after two more free throws with four seconds on the clock.

The ’Hawks dominated the glass in the second half and outrebounded the Titans 53-35 for the game. IWU lost the game at the free throw line by only converting on 13 of its 32 attempts.

Palmer recorded her first double-double of the season with 13 points and 18 rebounds. Trewyn led the ’Hawks in scoring with 14 and added seven boards. Titans’ sophomore guard Shelby Gray led all scorers with 17 points (6-10) including five of eight from downtown but missed the game tying three as time expired.

The team is in the midst of a brutal 4-game stretch that includes No. 16 George Fox, No. 9 Depauw, No. 22 Illinois Wesleyan and No. 5 UW-Oshkosh.

Before IWU, the ’Hawks had lost three straight, including a 57-74 defeat at the hands of George Fox University and a second half meltdown (54-63) to Depauw.

“We’ve got a lot to build on, and as a young team, we are still looking to find our identity,” Palmer said. “We have made significant improvements each week. It’s been a true test to start out the season. We’ve played some of the top teams in the country right off the bat, and it has really shown everyone, including the newcomers, the caliber that we need to play at.”

The ’Hawks are set to open up WIAC play against No. 5-ranked UW-Oshkosh in Kachel Gymnasium on Dec. 3 at 7 p.m.

The ’Hawks swept all three games against UW-Oshkosh last season. They defeated the Titans 72-66 at home behind a combined 39 point effort from Mary Merg and Kaitlyn Thill. It was the Titans first loss of the season (13-1).

The next encounter saw the ’Hawks demolish the Titans 64-46 on the road and clinch its second consecutive WIAC title. The team was led by 18 points from Merg and Kristen Ruchti, who accounted for 14 points and seven rebounds.

The third and final matchup of the season between the two teams took place in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA D-III Women’s Basketball Championship. The women took the game 69-57 en route to the programs third place finish. Merg finished the game with 23 points, five rebounds, four steals and three assists.

“Oshkosh is definitely hungry for revenge,” Palmer said. “They’re looking to take back (conference championship) what we took from them last year. This Wednesday is going to be a battle, but we’re up for the challenge. We’re ready to give them our best game.”