UWSP men’s basketball wins home opener over Buena Vista
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
The 12th-ranked University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) men’s basketball team got out to an early lead and remained in control the rest of the way to beat Buena Vista (Iowa) in its home opener at Bennett Court at Quandt Fieldhouse Saturday, Nov. 17.
The Pointers built a double-digit lead just over three minutes into the game and shot 55 percent from the field on the way to an 87-72 win.
“We talked about it, we wanted to start this year with a win and then come back and get our first home game,” said UWSP senior guard Nate Dodge. “It’s a home opener, you’re excited to get out in front of your fans, and it’s great to get our feet wet.
“We definitely have some room to improve, obviously it’s the fifth week of the season,” he said. “So if we can improve bit by bit every day, I think we’re going to be alright.”
“Overall I’m really pleased, playing against a team that was really difficult to beat on our home court,” said UWSP men’s basketball head coach Bob Semling. “They did not go away and you’ve got to give them credit for that, they didn’t get rattled when we built leads on them.
“Now we’ve got to work harder at trying to deliver that knockout blow,” he said.
Following a 54-41 win at 23rd-ranked St. Olaf (Minn.) to open the season Tuesday, Nov. 13, UWSP hit its first eight shots from the field Saturday afternoon to jump out to a 19-8 lead on Buena Vista with 16:09 to play in the first half.
The Pointers used back-to-back jumpers from senior guard Koko Songolo to extend their lead to 27-13 with 10:09 left in the first half, while Buena Vista hit a pair of three-pointers to pull within 27-19 with 7:51 to go in the half.
UWSP answered with an 11-2 run to build a 38-21 lead with 1:36 remaining on a layup from senior forward Canon O’Heron, and went into halftime with a 44-28 advantage.
Buena Vista cut its deficit to 56-45 with 12:48 to play in the second half, but O’Heron scored on a three-point play with 12:27 left to make it 59-45 and Buena Vista never got any closer, although it shot 52.94 percent from three-point range in the second half (9-of-17) to remain within striking distance.
However, the Pointers shot 12-of-13 from the free-throw line in the second half and were able to push their lead to 80-58 with 5:15 to go, as they went on to an 87-72 win.
“It’s a really good win, and we learned a lot as a team, playing against a style where they’re going to spread you out and try to get downhill and kick for three,” said Semling. “And then there’s so many long rebounds, they chase them down, and then they fire another three.
“But overall, I’m just pleased with the effort of our team, and it’s the first week out, and we’ve got a lot to get better at,” he said. “But that’s the sign of a good program and a good team, is you get better with each practice, and then each game we keep getting better.”
After missing all but one game last season due to an injury, junior guard Ethan Bublitz finished with 19 points and six rebounds for the Pointers, in his first game at Quandt since the 2016-17 season.
“It was good to see Ethan back out there,” said Semling. “Just to see the kind of speed he brings to floor for us on both ends of the court, that’s going to make us a better team.”
Senior guard Drew Fredrickson shot 5-of-7 from the field and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line and totaled 18 points, Dodge had 17 points, O’Heron added eight points and five rebounds, and senior guard/forward Mark Nelson chipped in with eight points off the bench to lead UWSP, which will be at home again to take on Edgewood at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24.
“It wasn’t a great win today, but we’re 2-0 to start the year and we’re playing a good amount of guys right now,” said Fredrickson. “We’ve got guys contributing pretty deep into the bench, and we’ve got other guys that are ready to go, too.
“Early on right now we want to play a lot of guys, eight, nine, maybe 10 deep every single game and keep those legs fresh for the end of the year, and I think everybody’s done a really good job,” he said. “We’ve been pretty good in practice, but we’re just going to have to have another good week of practice coming up, and then we have Edgewood next Saturday.”
“Drew was really good, and we needed him, because he’s one of our best finishers,” said Semling. “He didn’t get that fifth foul, and then he knocked in a bunch of clutch free throws, where it could’ve cut the lead under 10.
“But I think we can get five guys in double figures, we can have balanced scoring between our starters and our bench, and I think we can get balanced scoring inside and outside, so we’re scoring at the rim and knocking down shots from the three-point line,” he said. “That’s what we want to be, and we’ll work hard to get there.”