For the UW-Whitewater men’s basketball team, making game-winning plays with second left on the clock is nothing new.
Two weeks ago, UW-Whitewater’s Chris Davis put up a game-winning 3-pointer to sweep UW-River Falls in conference play, yet the same cannot be said for the ’Hawks in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament championship game last Sunday.
After defeating host UW-Whitewater 64-58, the UW-River Falls men’s basketball team took home its first Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament championship title and an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III tournament.
The ‘Hawks (23-4 overall, 13-3 WIAC) trailed by one with 56 seconds to go, but a 2-pointer from the Falcons’ Shane Manor and five good free throws kept UW-Whitewater from claiming the title.
UW-Whitewater now awaits word on the at-large bid into the NCAA III tournament. The picks will be announced Monday at 1 p.m.
The No. 1 seeded Warhawks came out strong in the first, forcing 14 UW-River Falls turnovers and keeping a steady lead the entire half. Although UW-W put up six 3-pointers and shot 46.4 percent from field goal range, the Falcons stuck close behind with a score of 34-26 going into the locker room.
“We were able to hang with them the first half, even though we didn’t really play well,” UW-River Falls head coach Jeff Berkhof said.
UW-Whitewater’s Cody Odegaard put up two 3-pointers in the first, adding 10 points to the team’s 34. Odegaard finished the game with 12 points, tied with Davis for team leading scorer.
Odegaard said it was half time that threw off the team’s momentum.
“They just came out and punched us in the mouth,” Odegaard said. “I think we were getting kind of lazy on defense and offensively we weren’t moving as much.”
No. 2 seeded UW-River Falls’ 6-foot-8 Wade Guerin went 6-for-6 under the basket and sank a 3-pointer in the second. Guerin finished as the game’s top scorer with 18 points, and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds.
“Guerin really played well,” UW-Whitewater head coach Pat Miller said. “He hit some shots that opened things up.”
A pair of 3-pointers and a free throw from UW-River Falls’ Brian Kimble gave the Falcons’ its first lead of the game four and a half minutes into the second. From there the Falcons’ kept pounding it into the block, putting the ball in the hands of Guerin and 6-7 forward Ollie White.
“We were a different ball club the second half,” Berkhof said. “We tried to run the floor in an organized manner which we weren’t doing the first half.”
With 5:30 left on the clock, UW-River Falls had an eight point lead over the ‘Hawks at 55-47.
The Warhawks resorted to a full-court press, which helped the team to a seven point comeback, yet the Falcon’s kept sinking shots and drawing fouls, holding onto the lead.
Miller said he was proud of the way his team battled back.
“Overall I don’t think we panicked, in fact, I think we held our composure fairly well,” Miller said.