No. 1 Pointers too much for Pioneers
Among the sea of white shirts and mustaches, inspired by the White Out, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Men’s Basketball team fell to number one, nationally-ranked University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, 76-61, Jan. 22 at Bo Ryan Court. The White Out event was implemented in order for students and athletes to stand up against cancer.
Four pioneers scored in the double digits. Senior Chas Cross recorded his third double-double of the season for the pioneers with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Teammate Eric “Skip” Gerber contributed 11 points and four assists, while junior Jim Stocki and freshman Cory Vaassen added 10 points each.
The game started off well for the unranked Pioneers. Cross won the tipoff against the Pointers’ Clayton Heuer, which led to a quick pass and an alley-oop dunk by junior Jake Manning.
The Pointers rebounded quickly and went on a 16-9 run, which was the largest lead of the half, with about 13 minutes remaining. The Pioneers fought back to narrow the deficit with good movement and execution offensively and held the Pointers on the defensive end with high intensity. With 2:23 minutes until halftime, they tied it up to 28 points apiece.
Cross finished off the first half with a layup in the final minute, giving the Pioneers a 33-31 lead and huge momentum going into the break.
The second half also started well for the Pioneers, as their aggressive play helped them off to a six-point lead, 43-37. The momentum took a hard shift as the Pointers went on a 14-point run, making the score 57-49 with under eight minutes left in the game.
“The game was really physical,” Cross said. “We knew going in that they were a really physical and well-balanced team, so they can play the inside-out game.”
As the Pioneers gained some traction, they managed to make it a one-possession game, 59-56, with less than five minutes to play. The inability of Platteville to score, along with the early foul trouble, combined for a late pointer-run from which the Pioneers failed to recover from.
“Our movement really helped us gain the lead early on. Once they started to cut the lead, we started getting stagnant on offense, and we weren’t able to contain them on defense,” Cross said. “They kept getting wide open looks and that’s how they got their lead.”
Pioneer Head Coach Jeff Gard was pleased with the high-level performance of his team but he addressed some of the issues Platteville struggled with during the game.
“For 20 minutes, if it stops, then we win the game. When you go against a good team like this, there is a reason they are one of the top teams in the nation, and you have to execute.” Gard said. “You have to play like a seasoned group, and for the most part, we did. In certain areas, we got a little tight. We were maybe a step slower than where we needed to be, both offensively and defensively.”
Over winter break, the UW-Platteville Men’s Basketball team traveled to the D3hoops.com Classic at South Point Arena in Las Vegas, N.D. The Pioneers finished the trip with a 1-1 record. They defeated George Fox, 98-91, and had five players shooting in double digits.
The Pioneers had a season-high shooting percentage of 59.25 percent and a season-high number of rebounds with 17.
They lost to Whitworth University, Wash., 84-77. A point of focus on the loss was poor shooting at the foul line, going 50 percent during the first half and 22 percent in the second.
Platteville returned to face University of Wisconsin-Superior. The Pioneers’ bench totaled 29 points, carrying them to a 77-73 win over the yellow jackets.
The Pioneers then trumped University of Wisconsin-Stout Blue Devils Jan. 10. UW-Platteville’s starting five scored 55 of the team’s 61 points, leading them to a 61-42 win.
The Pioneers then faced the eighth-ranked University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks. The Pioneers had trouble with scoring in the first half, which eventually led to a 77-58 defeat by the Warhawks and the Pioneers’ first conference loss of the season.
As a team leader, both on and off the court, Eric “Skip” Gerber enjoyed the time the team got to spend together over the winter break season. “Winter break is one of the best times of the year,” Gerber said. “As a team, we get closer, and we can just practice and not focus on school. It’s really a great time.”