UWSP men’s basketball wins season opener, hosts Buena Vista Saturday
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
In a battle of NCAA Division III Tournament teams from last season, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) men’s basketball team went on the road and beat 23rd-ranked St. Olaf (Minn.) in its season opener Tuesday, Nov. 13.
The 12th-ranked Pointers never trailed and broke open a close game midway through the second half, as they went on to a 54-41 win in Northfield, Minn.
UWSP (1-0) will have its home opener against Buena Vista (Iowa) at 3 p.m. at Bennett Court at Quandt Fieldhouse Saturday, Nov. 17, before the Pointers host Edgewood at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24.
“I’m really pleased,” said UWSP men’s basketball head coach Bob Semling. “We hit almost all of our defensive goals, we held them to 22 in the first half, 19 in the second, and kept a team that scored 75 on the road and is an offensive team to 41 on their homecourt.”
UWSP tipped off its season on the road Tuesday night and looked to end a two-game losing streak to St. Olaf, which advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season and opened this season with an 80-75 loss at UW-Eau Claire Thursday, Nov. 8.
Senior guard Drew Fredrickson, senior guard/forward Nate Dodge and junior guard Ethan Bublitz each hit a three-pointer to help UWSP jump out to a 12-2 lead with 17:05 to play in the first half, but St. Olaf answered with a 9-1 run to pull within 13-11 with 9:44 left in the first half.
The Pointers responded with a 15-7 spurt to take a 28-18 lead with 3:44 to go in the first half on a jumper from senior guard/forward Mark Nelson, and went into halftime with a 28-22 advantage.
UWSP shot 1-of-8 from three-point range to start the second half but still held a 43-36 lead with 9:06 to play, before Dodge scored seven consecutive points in a 9-0 run that pushed the Pointers’ lead to 52-36 on a jumper from senior forward Canon O’Heron with 3:44 remaining.
UWSP went on to close out a 54-41 win, as it shot 33.3 percent from the field (19-of-57) and only turned the ball over seven times, while it limited St. Olaf to 34.1 percent shooting (15-of-44) in the victory.
Dodge shot 4-of-8 from three-point range and finished with 16 points and eight rebounds, O’Heron totaled 14 points and five rebounds, Fredrickson chipped in with eight points to go along with five rebounds and six assists, and senior guard Koko Songolo added seven points off the bench.
“I’m really pleased with the defensive effort, the consistency for 40 minutes,” said Semling. “On offense, it’s going to be up and down, especially early in the season.
“But we’re going to get much better on offense as we go,” he said. “(St. Olaf is) a ranked team with a lot of pride who has been in the NCAA (Tournament) four of the last five years, which there is only 15 teams in the country that have done that, so a good win for us on the road.”
UWSP will be at home Saturday afternoon to take on Buena Vista, which was set to open its season at home against Bethany Lutheran Thursday, Nov. 15.
Buena Vista lost 93-72 at home to UWSP last season and finished 17-9 overall, and is led by the return of a pair of starters in 6-3 junior guard Timothy Jeffries (9.3 points per game last season, 43.9 percent on three-pointers) and 6-0 senior guard Connor Winkelman (7.8 points).
“We’re trying to grow some excitement about this team and get a lot of fans excited about it,” said Semling. “We need to try to build something special, I know we’re Top 10 in the country in attendance, but we all want more.
“We all want to see if we can get it back to something special,” he said. “Not 1,000 or 1,200 (fans), but we get it back to 1,800, 2,000 and we sell that place out.”