Soaring ‘Hawks win seventh in a row

Sophomore+guard+Maurquis+Turner+puts+up+a+shot+against+a+%0AUW-Stout+defender.+Turner+had+eight+points+in+the+UW-W+victory.+Photo+by+Kimberly+Wethal

Sophomore guard Maurquis Turner puts up a shot against a UW-Stout defender. Turner had eight points in the UW-W victory. Photo by Kimberly Wethal

Justin St. Peter, Sports Editor

The Warhawks men’s basketball team extended the team’s winning streak to seven after a pair of victories last week to move into sole possession of second place in the WIAC conference with four games left in regular season competition.

The ’Hawks began the week with a late rally to break the second place tie in the WIAC with UW-Platteville on Feb. 1 road matchup with a 68-64 victory before dispatching UW-Stout 83-48 on Feb. 4 at home.

Head coach Pat Miller  said he wants the Warhawks to keep putting pressure on WIAC frontrunner UW-River Falls.

“We just have to keep winning,” Miller said. “We just have to continue to fight and battle and win every game.”

The ’Hawks played both games without starting forward Scotty Tyler, the second leading scorer and top rebounder on the team who missed both games with the flu and flu-like complications, Miller said.

Miller was quick to point out that forward Alex LeGault, who saw increased minutes in both games in Tyler’s stead, played well in 26 minutes against UW-Platteville followed by 16 vs. UW-Stout.

Unlike many of the ’Hawks victories during the team’s winning streak, the team started out slowly and trailed 30-22 with five minutes left in the first half against UW-Platteville.

Four minutes later, the ’Hawks led by five, following a 13-0 run before taking a 36-32 lead into the half.

The Pioneers made a run of their own in the second half, scoring 12 unanswered points to hold a 46-40 advantage with 12:10 remaining in the game.

The game remained tight before sophomore guard Mitchell Pfeifer hit a layup to tie the game at 53 with 5:10 left.

Junior guard Chris Jones gave UW-W the 58-57 lead when he hit a jumper to tie the game and hit the ensuing free throw for the three-point play. After a pair of Pioneers free throws, junior guard/forward Demetius Woodley hit a pair of free throws to give the ’Hawks the lead for good and combined with Jones to go 8/8 from the line in the final 30 seconds to put the game out of reach.

Jones led the team with 26 points off the bench, and sophomore guard/forward Derek Rongstad contributed 14 points. Woodley added 11 points and five rebounds, while LeGault added seven points off the bench.

The ’Hawks then were able to easily dispatch UW-Stout on Feb. 4 at home with lights-out shooting and suffocating defense. UW-W hit seven three-pointers by six different players in the first half and shot 48.3 percent from beyond the arc and 49.1 percent from the field for the game.

Miller explained how the ’Hawks were able to challenge UW-Stout’s defense.

“We are difficult to defend because we have a lot of different weapons,” Miller said. “We shoot the ball well from multiple positions … It allows us to spread the floor. It puts the defense into long closeouts which we took advantage of a lot tonight, and we got a lot of good looks.”

The Blue Devils were forced to shoot 38.3 percent from the field and committed 20 turnovers.

Senior guard Drew Bryson was matched up for most of the game against the WIAC conference’s third leading scorer, guard John Keefe, and held him to four points on the night. He said his teammates gave a lot of help with Keefe but loved the matchup.

“I enjoy guarding their best guy and shutting him down,” Bryson said. “I’m willing to do whatever I can to help our team win.”

The game was over early as the ’Hawks controlled the game and took the lead for good two minutes into the first half and took a 38-24 lead to halftime following a Jones jumper at the first half buzzer.

Jones once again led the ’Hawks with 17 points, including six straight points at the beginning of the second half to further put the game out of reach.

Miller was quick to empty his bench, with 16 players getting playing time, accounting for 48 bench points.

He said that in games like the UW-Stout 35-point rout, Miller tries to make sure he gets as many guys as he can on the floor.

“People don’t see those minutes as important, but for our guys that don’t see game action those are important minutes,” Miller said. “This time of year, you can get illness, you can get injuries, some of that type of stuff. People that haven’t seen the floor a lot could end up playing a lot.”

The Warhawks will face difficult tests this week with a road matchup against rival UW-Stevens Point on Feb. 8 and then travel to No. 4 UW-River Falls on Feb. 11.

Bryson said he is ready for the challenge.

“Stevens Point is a rivalry game,” Bryson said. “They always have a lot of people there, especially against us, so it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

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