Men’s hoops shoot for comeback

Dylan Piccolo, Staff Reporter

Last season, the Warhawks lost their first-round matchup in the WIAC tournament against UW-River Falls.

The season did not finish the way they wanted, and it was telling they would be back ready to go with six of their seven leading scorers back on the hardwood for the 2018-19 season.

UW-W is currently ranked No. 15 in the NCAA DIII Top 25 poll, which ranks behind WIAC foes No. 9 UW-Oshkosh and No. 4 UW-Stevens Point.

The Warhawks backcourt is led by two of their top returning scorers in seniors Andre Brown and Mitchell Pfiefer. Pfeifer is currently averaging 11.8 points per game and shooting about 62 percent from downtown. Brown is averaging 9.8 points per game on 50 percent overall shooting.

On the wings and upfront, UW-W is led by a set of former Division I players. Senior guard Derek Rongstad is entering his third season at UW-W after transferring from UW-Milwaukee. Senior guard Malik Clements is in his first season after playing at North Dakota State. And senior forward Melvin Brown Jr. is also in his first season after playing at Stillman College (Ala.) last season.

Rongstad and Brown Jr. are currently leading the team in points per game with 13.8 and 12.6, respectively.

When head coach Pat Miller was asked to describe his team in one word, he said “depth.” The depth on this team runs through bench players like Dalton Menke, David Sachs, Riley Jensen, Tywon Bressler and Finely Schumacher, who all have the potential to make impact for the game immediately.

The Warhawks can win in many different ways, which is a major key for a team’s overall success on the season.

The depth on this roster allows the Warhawks to play an up-tempo system where they can utilize their athleticism to force the opposition to make mistakes in the full-court defensively or in the half-court.

Although the Warhawks can force turnovers and thrive in the havoc, their senior leadership allows them to run a motion filled offense that relies on both the inside and the outside game.

“We can put a fast, small and shooting friendly offense, or we can put out a physical inside game and win both ways,” said Miller.

The Warhawks are having a lot of success this season. So far, they are off to a 5-0 start on an explosive offensive attack and a pressure -packed defensive mentality.

Their first victory of the season was against Anderson University (Ind.) on the road 98-82, where the Warhawks offensively were effective shooting the ball at 58 percent from the field. Five Warhawks scored in double-figures against Anderson led by Rongstad with 20 points, and Brown Jr. and Pfiefer with 15. It was an up-tempo contest that the Warhawks pulled out on the road.

The Warhawks then went against St. John’s University (Minn.) and Concordia University (Wis.) on back-to-back nights at Kachel Gymnasium and won both games by double-digits. Andre Brown led the St. John’s contest with 20 points.

He believes that during this non-conference schedule, the Warhawks have a chance to work out some of the kinks in their system.

“We aren’t a complete product yet, but we are talented,” Brown said. “We just need to focus on tomorrow and getting better before the conference season.”

Whitewater then flexed their muscles against Monmouth College (Ill.) and Beloit College during Thanksgiving week, beating Monmouth 83-55 and Beloit 92-65.

Pfeifer led the Warhawks in scoring against Monmouth with 19 points on five of six from behind the arc. The Warhawks physically outmatched Monmouth on the glass out-rebounding them 34-22.

Against Beloit, it was Brown Jr. who had 16 points and Clements who posted a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

After the Warhawks finish up their non-conference schedule Dec. 15, the ranked Warhawks will have some stiff competition in the WIAC.

“Every year, you know the WIAC will be good,” Rongstad said. “We know it will be a battle, but we will be ready for the challenge.”

The Warhawks next take the court against Calvin College (Mich.) Dec. 7 and Alma College (Mich.) on December 8. Both contests are at home.