Warhawks ground Eagles
The members of the UW-La Crosse men's basketball team will probably have the sound of a basketball clanking off the rim in their heads for a few days after a rough shooting night in the Kachel Gym.
The Eagles shot 28 percent from the field and 3 for 21 from 3-point territory on their way to season low 45 points and an unforgiving 63-45 loss to third-ranked UW-Whitewater.
KJ Evans led the way for the Warhawks with 21 points, while Elkhorn graduate Eric Bryson had 18 to lead Whitewater (20-3, 11-3) to its sixth straight victory. The victory helps Whitewater maintain its second-place spot in the WIAC, 1½ games behind UW-Stevens Point.
The Warhawks have an 11-0 record at home and have won six straight games to secure a first-round bye in the WIAC tournament.
Whitewater has stayed on a roll despite head coach Pat Miller being unable to be with the team due to neck surgery. Miller's return date hasn't been announced, but the veteran coach is expected to return this season.
In his absence, interim head coach Nick Bennett has directed his team to three straight victories, including Wednesday night's defensive gem.
“Our saving grace was we defended a whole lot better than the first time we played them (La Crosse) when they sank 15 three-pointers and scored 88 points,” said Bennett, whose team's last loss came at La Crosse 88-83 on January 22nd. “We defended the three-point line a whole lot better with them shooting 3-for-21.”
Whitewater wasted little time taking advantage of the Eagles' 18 percent percent shooting during the first 10 minutes of the game with a 21-7 run. Bryson led the spurt with eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
“Eric is just one of those guys that puts a lot of pressure on himself,” Bennett said. “He is one of the guys that have a lot of anxiety to start the season.
“He's worked himself into the system and found shots and is playing his best basketball of the season.”
The Warhawks continued to put the pressure on the Eagles, extending the margin to 34-15 at halftime.
La Crosse, behind six consecutive points from Lake Geneva Badger High graduate Braden Tice, cut the margin to 38-25 with just under 15 minutes to play.
“They (Warhawks) are a confident group overall and sometimes we've got to talk them about being on the borderline of too confident,” Bennett said. “I thought we got a little jump-shot happy at the end and got a little sloppy with the ball again, but sometimes you got to roll with that and let them make plays and get better.”
Whitewater eventually got things turned back their way later in the second half, leading by its largest margin of 62-42 with 1:42 to play en route to the dominating victory.
“Overall they have found their niche and found their way to get better,” Bennett said of the Warhawks.
With the WIAC tournament coming up in two weeks, Whitewater has chosen the ideal time to hit its stride.
WHITEWATER 63, LA CROSSE 45
La Crosse (45)—Skogman, 4-1-11; Tice, 2-1-5; Collom, 2-0-4; Staege, 3-3-9; Zuiker, 2-1-6; Kruser, 1-3-5; DeBruin, 1-1-3; Cameron, 1-0-2. Totals: 16-10-45.
Whitewater (63)—Evans, 9-2-21; Bryson, 5-4-14; Hearn, 4-1-9; Merg, 1-2-5; Young, 1-0-2; Egan, 2-2-6; Souter, 0-1-1; McBride, 0-1-1. Totals: 22-13-63.
UW-La Crosse 15 30—45
UW-Whitewater 34 29—63
Three-point goals—La Crosse 3 (Skogman 2, Zuiker), Whitewater 6 (Bryson 4, Evans, Merg). Free throws missed—La Crosse 5, Whitewater 9. Total fouls—La Crosse 18, Whitewater 18.