Hawks hoops hot out of the gate

Kolton Hegstrom, Sports editor

 

The No. 11 UW-Whitewater men’s basketball team took care of business at home with four straight wins to open the season; now it’s time for California.

“It’s going to be a nice trip, but a quick trip,” UW-W head coach Pat Miller said.

After opening up the season with an 82-66 win over No. 15 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps from California, now it’s the Warhawks who will travel to Redlands, California to partake in the Lee Fulmer Memorial Classic. The first game of the tournament will be on Dec. 1 against Caltech, then the next day UW-W will face off against the University of Redlands.

Both Caltech and the University of Redlands enter the classic with an 0-3 record, and both schools lost by 20 plus points last season to UW-W’s first opponent Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.

This will be the start of a month plus long road-trip for the Warhawks who’s next home game isn’t until they host UW-River Falls on Jan. 6. On the road trip UW-W will travel to California, Indiana, Beloit and De Pere before traveling to Oshkosh to get the conference season started.

“We don’t play at home in the Month of December, which certainly isn’t ideal.” Miller said.

Season So Far

UW-W opened the season with the win over No. 15 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, then the following day the Warhawks defeated Waldorf University 75-57. The Warhawks won both of these games without last season’s No. one and No. two scorers Chris Jones and Scotty Tyler who missed the games due to personal issues.

Then, on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving UW-W defeated Monmouth 66-50. Tyler made his season debut in the game vs. Monmouth finishing with six points, four rebounds and a block in 14 minutes off the bench.

“Clearly (Tyler) was rusty conditioning wise,” Miller said about Tyler in his debut. “But he just adds a different element in terms of size, rim protection and ability to step out and shoot three’s, space the floor.. He’ll be an asset.”

On Nov. 25 the Warhawks defeated Anderson College 79-70 in what will be their last home game of the 2017 calendar year.

Through the first four games of the season the Warhawks have made up for Jones’ absence by featuring a well-balanced scoring attack. Over the first four games the Warhawks had three different players lead the team in points.

“The teams I have had that have been the best, with maybe one exception, the scoring was balanced,” Miller said. “Having the ability to score from different spots with different personal just makes you more difficult to guard.”

In the season opener, junior Mitchell Pfeifer scored a career-high 27 points after averaging slightly over four points per game last season.

Then, in the Warhawks​ game against Waldorf junior guard Andre Brown scored a career high 26 of his own. Brown led the Warhawks with 17 points against Anderson College.

Junior Dalton Menke and Brown led the ’Hawks with 13 points in the win against Monmouth. This balance is something head coach Pat Miller hopes the Warhawks keep this balance going deeper into the season.

Brown, Pfiefer and junior guard David Sachs are the leaders of this balanced attack early in the season. Brown is leading the team in points at 17 per game, while Pfeifer is chipping in 15 per game. Sachs leads the team averaging 5.2 assists per game.

Brown, who is scoring more than seven more points per game than he did last year says the biggest difference is his consistency.

“It just clicks a little bit more for me,” Brown said. “I had a lot of the pieces to go play at a consistent level, but I wasn’t consistently there with my mindset. I’m going out there and consistently putting it together.”

Without Tyler in the lineup it’s the Warhawks guards who have picked up the slack in the rebounding department. That effort is led by Junior guard Derek Rongstad who leads the team with 7.8 rebounds per game.

“I go into every game with the same mentality that I’m going to box out my guy and we’re going to rebound as a team,” Rongstad said about his rebounding mentality.

Through four games the Warhawks have shown improvements on the defensive end of the floor, something preached heavily by UW-W players and coaches in the preseason. The team is allowing 60.8 points per contest, nine fewer than last season and Miller says the Warhawks are “getting there” on that end of the floor.

“Obviously defensively we weren’t very good last year,” Miller said, “We’re getting closer to the correct positions.”

 

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