UW-Whitewater’s men’s basketball team, can play textbook defense when the situation calls for it.
Just ask shell-shocked UW-Platteville.
Whitewater’s suffocating pressure defense held 6-10 center and conference leading scorer Jeff Skemp to just seven points on six field-goal attempts to clear the way to an impressive 75-62 victory over fourth-ranked Platteville here Wednesday night.
Myles McKay rolled up a team-high 19 points, while Kori Vernon and Dustin Mitchell had 18 and 17, respectively, and Matt Goodwin added 13 to propel Whitewater (19-3, 11-2) into a second-place tie with Platteville (19-3, 11-2) in the WIAC.
The fifth-ranked Warhawks, who trail first-place UW-Stevens Point by two games, host the Pointers on Saturday in another battle of nationally ranked WIAC teams.
A victory over third-rated Stevens Point almost certainly will demand the same defensive intensity that the Warhawks unleashed on the Pioneers.
“I’m really happy with the progress we’ve made (on defense). This game was our most complete effort on defense in terms of execution,” Warhawk coach Pat Miller said. “We pressured when we needed to pressure, we helped when we needed to help, and we forced turnovers.”
A fresh Goodwin didn’t hurt Whitewater, either.
After spending the majority of the first half on the bench with foul trouble, Goodwin ignited the Warhawks with seven quick points that gave Whitewater a 44-39 lead with 16:08 left.
Whitewater’s pressure defense then slammed the door on Skemp, who had just one second-half point on one field-goal attempt.
“You have got to give great credit to Whitewater. Their pressure defense on the perimeter was really good,” Platteville coach Paul Combs said.
“I’ve got to do a better job to find ways to get Jeff (Skemp) to get more touches than just six shots, which is just unacceptable for player of his caliber.”
Despite its limitations, Platteville was down just 59-56 after Curt Hanson nailed two free throws with 2:59 to play.
McKay promptly answered with five straight points to build Whitewater’s lead to 64-56 with 2:01 left.
Mitchell finally put the finishing touches on the victory when he fought off a Platteville intentional foul with a thunderous two-handed dunk. The dunk and foul led to a four-point possession that put Whitewater in control for good, 69-59, with 1:28 left.
“They wore us down, playing with extreme pressure the whole game,” Platteville’s Charlie Lohoff said. “Credit them. They played better than us tonight and deserve to win this one.”
Hanson was unfazed by the Warhawk pressure in the first half, draining three three-pointers to put Platteville up 32-31 at halftime. But Whitewater’s defense eventually gained the upper hand in the second half.