STEVENS POINT - UW-Whitewater dug a hole with 17% shooting on the way to a twenty-three point halftime deficit in a 74-57 loss to UW-Stevens Point in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament championship game at Quandt Gymnasium in Stevens Point Sunday afternoon. Stevens Point, 26-1 and ranked first in the D3hoops.com poll, earns the league's automatic berth in the NCAA III championship tournament which will begin play March 6. UW-Whitewater, second in the D3hoops.com poll and 23-4, will receive an at-large berth into the national tournament. The complete field, including host sites and pairings, will be announced Monday.
The teams started out on even footing, with Whitewater holding what would prove to be its last lead at 8-6 on a layup by junior guardQuardell Young (Kenosha/Bradford) at 13:25. Then the game went south for the Warhawks, with the Pointers reeling off the next twelve points for an 18-8 lead on the second of two free throws by senior guard Trevor Hass with 9:50 left in the half. After a pair of free throws by Whitewater senior guard Alex Merg (Greendale/Greendale), UW-SP scored the next seven points to hold a 25-10 advantage with 5:14 on the clock. The Pointers didn't let up, closing out the half on a 12-0 run to take a 37-14 lead into the lockerroom. The previous low for scoring in a half for UW-W this season was 22 points, in a loss at Stevens Point December 11.
While UW-W had trouble finding the basket in the first twenty minutes, including an 0-9 mark from three point range, UW-Stevens Point shot 56% from the floor and hit 3-9 three pointers. The Warhawks, who came in averaging eleven turnovers a game this season, had thirteen in the first twenty minutes. Senior guard Tyler Tillema had eleven points in the first half, making 5-8 field goals. Whitewater did not have a player with more than four points, although senior guard Eric Bryson (Elkhorn/Elkhorn) led both teams with six rebounds.
Early in the second half the Pointers pushed their margin to 27 points, twice. Junior forward Joe Ritchay's layin at 13:25 put UW-SP up 53-26, and with 12:30 on the clock Haas' layup put the Pointers up 55-28. Whitewater finally got the deficit under twenty with 3:45 remaining on a fast break layin by junior forward KJ Evans (Beloit/Beloit Memorial), making the score 72-53. UW-W got the margin to seventeen twice, once on Merg's two free throws with 2:55 left, and with just 0:42 on the clock when Evans added a tipin.
Whitewater's shooting improved to 44% in the second half, bring the game mark to 34%. Stevens Point shot 50% from the floor for the game. The Pointers made 21-26 free throws to Whitewater's 10-15. UW-W had just two turnovers in the second half, and the teams ended the game tied with 15 apiece. The rebounding battle was also a stalemate at 36-36.
Whitewater and Stevens Point split the season series in WIAC play. Point won 79-67 December 11 in Stevens Point, and Whitewater won 81-76 in overtime February 5 at UW-W.
Young topped Whitewater with 19 points, hitting 7-12 from the floor and 3-4 from beyond the arc. Bryson was the only other Warhawk in double figures, with ten points. Evans topped Whitewater with ten rebounds. Tillema led both teams with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Hass contributed 18 points and a game high four assists while Ritchay added 13 points.