UWSP drops WIAC opener at Eau Claire with Whitewater, Platteville up next
Following a pair of wins in Phoenix last week, the
19th-ranked University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) men’s basketball team
fell in its Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) opener at
UW-Eau Claire Wednesday, Jan. 6.
The Pointers beat Keene State (N.H.) and Hamilton (N.Y.) at
the Arizona Shootout Dec. 29 and 30, and then never led in a 63-59 loss to Eau
Claire (8-4, 1-0) to drop to 7-5 overall.
UWSP will travel to face 15th-ranked UW-Whitewater (10-2,
1-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 9, and then will host UW-Platteville (6-6, 0-1)
at Bennett Court at Quandt Fieldhouse in its WIAC home opener at 7 p.m. Wednesday,
“It should be a great game,” said UWSP men’s basketball head
coach Bob Semling of the matchup with Whitewater. “We’re going to have to play
one of our best games defensively.”
The Pointers opened the Arizona Shootout Tuesday, Dec. 29,
against a Keene State team that advanced to the NCAA
Division III Tournament last year and came in averaging 93 points per game this
UWSP went on to hold Keene State to 37 points under its
average in a 65-56 victory, as senior guard/forward Sean McGann had 18 points
and seven rebounds and senior guard Stephen Pelkofer finished with 13 points
and four rebounds to lead the way.
“We held that team to under 60, and to do that was really
encouraging,” said Semling. “There were moments of that game where I could tell
that we were having an effect on them, it was wearing on them and they were
starting to become frustrated, and that’s a good sign when your defense does
that to a veteran team.”
UWSP took on Hamilton the next day and never trailed, as the
Pointers built a 21-8 lead with 6:58 left in the first half and carried a 33-13
lead into halftime, on their way to a 63-41 win.
“The day before was a better defensive performance, Hamilton just didn’t have
the talent and experience level that Keene
State had,” said Semling.
“But we were very good defensively and made them work and took them out of some
of the main things that they wanted to do on the offensive end.”
Freshman guard Ethan Bublitz went 7-of-9 from the field and
5-of-6 from three-point range to finish with 19 points in the win over Hamilton
and McGann also had 19 points and five assists for the Pointers, who spent the
next couple of days in Arizona before they flew home Saturday, Jan. 1.
“It was a great college basketball experience for our guys,
both on and off the floor,” said Semling. “And that’s exactly the purpose of a
trip like that, to provide our guys with an opportunity to travel together, to
be in a major metro area and to enjoy a warmer climate, but be very focused and
be all business about winning two games.
“And then having some down time before we fly back, to do
some sightseeing and start to understand some of the historical aspects of that
part of the country,” he said. “So we accomplished all of those goals and all
of those plans that we had for our young men during that five-day trip, and the
most important thing is I felt like we got better.”
UWSP opened WIAC play Wednesday, Jan. 6, at Eau Claire and
fell behind early, as Eau Claire scored on its first five possessions of the game,
including a trio of three-pointers and a three-point play, to build a 14-3 lead
with 16:00 minutes left in the first half.
The Pointers followed with a 13-5 spurt to pull within 19-16
with 9:20 to play in the half and were within 30-26 with 3:39 to go, before Eau
Claire went on a 7-1 run to go into halftime with a 37-27 lead, as McGann shot
4-of-7 from the field in the first half and had 10 points, while the rest of
the team was 6-for-26 (23.1 percent).
Eau Claire extended its lead to 42-32 with 14:30 to play,
but junior forward Brad Freeborn hit back-to-back three-pointers to get UWSP
within 42-38 with 13:06 left, and the game remained tight heading into the
The Pointers were down 53-50 with 5:44 to go following a
layup from McGann, but they missed their next seven shots from the field and
Eau Claire went on an 8-1 run to build a 61-51 lead with 32 seconds left, and
it held on for a 63-59 win.
Junior forward Jared Schneiderman scored 17 points and
sophomore guard and former Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH)
standout George Diekelman finished with 16 points and seven rebounds to lead
McGann had 19 points and Freeborn added 14 points and five
rebounds off the bench, while Bublitz was 1-for-14 from the field and Pelkofer
was 1-for-12, as the Pointers shot 23-of-71 (32.4 percent) in the loss.
Next up, UWSP will play Saturday night at rival Whitewater, in
a battle of the two teams that have dominated the WIAC since the 1999-2000
season, as one of the two has claimed at least a share of the WIAC Regular
Season Title in 15 of the last 16 seasons.
Whitewater won the 2014 NCAA Division III National Title and
was ranked in the Top Three in the nation every week last season, before it was
upset 83-71 in the first round of the NCAA Division III Tournament by Defiance (Ohio) to finish 24-4.
Whitewater lost its Top Seven scorers from a year ago,
including WIAC Player of the Year and First Team All-American point guard
Quardell Young and a pair of First Team All-WIAC selections in guard/forward
K.J. Evans and Steve Eagan, and got off to a 9-2 start this season in
nonconference play, with losses at home to NAIA Davenport (Mich.) (85-74 Nov.
20) and top-ranked Augustana (Ill.) (75-55 Dec. 2).
“A lot of people sold Whitewater short, I don’t think they
really knew who they had coming in on their roster,” said Semling. “But I think
they’ve done an outstanding job of putting together a roster and getting them
to play together and getting them to adjust and learn each other’s roles and
strengths and weaknesses.”
Whitewater opened WIAC play with a 75-59 win at UW-Stout (4-7,
0-1) Wednesday night and is led by NCAA Division 1 UW-Milwaukee transfer and 6-5
senior forward Trinson White (16.1 points, 8.3 rebounds), 6-6 junior forward Cole
Van Schyndel (14.7 points, 5.7 rebounds), 6-0 junior guard Drew Bryson (9.5
points, 42.4 percent on three-pointers), 6-1 freshman point guard Andre Brown (8
points, 3.4 assists) and 5-11 sophomore point guard Jerry Ngobi (7.3 points).
Junior 6-3 guard Haki Stampley (14.7 points, 5.3 rebounds)
joined Whitewater at the end of the first semester after he played one season
at NCAA Division 1 Northern Michigan University (second on the team with 14.1
points per game in 2011-12) and one at NCAA Division II Lynn University (Fla.)
(8.3 points per game in 2013-14), while NCAA Division II Augustana (S.D.)
transfer and 6-1 junior guard Ethan Guske (10.1 points in seven games for
Whitewater this season) left the team last month and is no longer listed on its
“Trinson White’s a handful, when you have a guy who’s 6-5
and aggressive and intense, and then he’s a quick jumper and he’s athletic and
long, those have become tough matchups at our level,” said Semling. “Their
surprise is Cole Van Schyndel, who was recruited to play football there as a
tight end and went out for basketball, and now is giving them just a really
physical, strong, tough guy to score around the basket and hit the offensive
“Stampley’s only played four games, but he gives them
another three-point threat, and then Bryson has started all 11 games after he came
off the bench last year,” he said. “And Andre Brown is a true freshman, kind of
like our Ethan Bublitz, he’s coming in and he’s playing about 20 minutes a game
and is real solid.
“They have a lot of weapons, and they have guys who can just
simply rise up and make plays and score and make big shots,” he said. “And
that’s going to be our challenge, we have to be very, very good as a team
defensively and help each other.”
The Pointers will then play at Bennett Court at Quandt
Fieldhouse for the fist time since Dec. 15 when they host Platteville at Wednesday, Jan. 13, in their
WIAC home opener, after Platteville fell 88-57 at UW-La Crosse (7-5, 1-0) Wednesday
Platteville lost a pair of First Team All-WIAC selections in
guard Jim Stocki and forward Jake Manning from a year ago when it finished
16-10, and is guided by head coach Jeff Gard, the younger brother of current
University of Wisconsin interim men’s basketball head coach Greg Gard.
This season Platteville is led by 6-4 senior guard/forward
Boston Johnson (13.2 points, 7 rebounds, 2.9 assists), 6-4 junior forward Cory
Vaassen (12.5 points, 6.5 rebounds), 6-4 sophomore guard Matt Oestreich (10.8
points), 6-3 freshman guard Robert Duax (10 points, 55.6 percent on
three-pointers in four games), 6-6 freshman forward Ethan Woodrow (9.7 points)
and 6-2 sophomore guard Trey Sigel (9.4 points).
“With Platteville, so much of it is stopping Boston Johnson
and Cory Vaassen and Oestreich, because they have three really experienced and
confident players that have proven it in this conference that they can be
successful,” said Semling. “If the other guys are good, solid role players and
they have three really good scorers who know that they can compete in this
league, then that’s enough.
“Duax has only played since semester, and then Woodrow’s
only played in three games, but he had 21 points at (third-ranked) Hope and
really raised some eyebrows,” he said. “River Falls and Eau Claire and then
Platteville are all teams that had enough coming back, with some solid players
coming in, that they could get hot and they could be a team that could be in
those Top Three in our league. There are going to be teams who are going to be
good enough to pull upsets and determine who wins this league championship, and
certainly Platteville’s in that category.”