Team receives bye in WIAC Championship

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Feb. 25, 2015 By Paul Bressler

Thanks to a coin flip, the No. 2-ranked UW-Whitewater men’s basketball team will host the lowest remaining seed in the WIAC tournament as the freshly crowned No. 1-seed on Feb. 26 at 7 p.m.

The flip came after a conference finale against UW-Stout, 86-77.

“Winning the conference title is pretty exciting,” senior guard Quardell Young said. “We’re excited to win it but also share it. The home court advantage is awesome but we’re very humbled to accept that accolade. We’re looking forward to bigger and better things.”

WIAC Commissioner Gary Kamer flipped the coin himself to determine the tiebreaker between the top two seeds for the tournament due to the fact that the No. 5-ranked Pointers and ’Hawks both finished with 15-1 conference records.

“It’s great because it forces you to continue to work and build your program to the highest level possible,” head coach Pat Miller said. “The battles we’ve had. It’s a great barometer to have within your conference knowing that year in and year out [Stevens Point is] one of the top programs in the country.”

The 15 conference wins are the most in Warhawk history for a single season, but they will have to settle for a share of the WIAC championship. It is the team’s fifth regular season title in the last 10 years and the program’s 15th overall.

In pursuit of its fourth consecutive WIAC tournament championship, the ’Hawks will have to await the outcome of the two first-round matchups.

The No. 4-seeded Pioneers (16-9, 9-7) will host the No. 5-seeded Titans (14-11, 8-8) and the No. 3-seeded Falcons (12-13, 10-6) will host the No. 6-seeded Blugolds (10-15, 6-10) on Feb. 24 at 7 p.m.

Before it could look forward, the ’Hawks had to take care of business against UW-Stout on Feb 21.

The first half played out into a game of runs. Within the first minute and a half, the Blue Devils (3-22, 0-16) jumped out to a 7-2 lead. The ’Hawks answered with an 11-0 run and took the early advantage 13-7 five minutes into the game. Stout countered and retook the lead 16-13 following a 9-0 run of its own.

Senior guard Rahjan Muhammad and the ’Hawks closed out the first half on an 8-0 run including a pair of triples from Muhammad. The team held a 43-36 advantage at the break. The team was backed by senior forward KJ Evans’ 10 points and Muhammad’s four 3-pointers.

The ’Hawks lead by as many as 14 in the second half, and the Blue Devils never drew closer than five.

Young finished with a career-high 13 assists partially due to Muhammad’s and senior guard Cody Odegaard’s combined 7-of-10 performance from downtown.

“I was just running our offense,” Young said. “I know teams like to get in the paint on me and kind of collapse and help stop me from driving. I just kept in mind that if I make a couple dribbles toward them and force them to commit then I could kick out to open shooters and a couple of our guys hit some big shots as well as cut to the basket and got some layups.”

Evans finished with 21 points and six rebounds while senior forward Steve Egan compiled 15 points.

On Feb. 18, the ’Hawks defeated UW-Oshkosh 69-47 in what was the team’s last regular season home game. This particular senior night was a celebration of a triumphant run that has seen a plethora of success.

“These guys have amazing accomplishments throughout their careers,” Miller said. “Over 100 wins, multiple national championships. Not only have they had great competitive success but they’re great guys. They’re a lot of fun to coach and they’ve shown outstanding leadership. As a coach you’re torn a little bit because you’re extraordinarily happy to have the opportunity to coach these guys and watch them accomplish what they have over the course of their careers. It’s bittersweet because you enjoy coaching them and knowing that they are going to leave is difficult.”

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