Men’s basketball jumps out to hot start

Entering the season, the biggest question for the Pioneer men’s basketball team was who would assume the scoring role left by graduated senior Brett Stangel.

The answer: everyone.

Six players are averaging seven or more points for head coach Jeff Gard’s squad, led by sophomore guard Jim Stocki with just over 11.

The University of Wisconsin-Platteville team opened its season with an 88-35 win over Emmaus Bible College from Dubuque, Iowa, the team’s first game of the Gabe Miller Tip-Off Classic.  Gard attributed the win to the strong defensive game played by the Pioneers, who forced 30 Eagle turnovers.

“It was a strong collective effort by the guys,” Gard said.  “Anytime you can hold a team to 35 points at the college level, you know you played good defense.”

Not only was the defense strong, but the Pioneers shot 55 percent from the field, compared to the Eagles 34 percent.  The Pioneers also had 39 rebounds to the Eagles’ 14.  Junior guard Eric Gerber and senior forward Rob Stallion agreed that fewer turnovers would benefit the offense, as the Pioneers had 19 on the night.

The Pioneers won their second game of the Classic against Goshen College 82-53.

The first half of the game consisted of great defensive and offensive plays, with multiple diving saves.  The first timeout was taken with 15:36 left while UW-Platteville and Goshen College were tied at 15. The timeout seemed to re-invigorate the team and several three-point shots were made by the Pioneers.  The first half ended with the Pioneers in the lead 42-29.

The battle continued in the second half with many more one-on-one plays on behalf of both teams.  After a take-away and score by sophomore Trevor Wittwer near the end of the second half, the team got fired up. With 2:30 minutes left in the second half, the starters were taken out with UW-Platteville in the advantage 76-51.

Senior Rob Stallion felt the referees were not on top of the game as they should be.

“We had to fight through the refs,” Stallion said.  “They aren’t always on our side.”

Gard said he was elated to make it through the Gabe Miller Tip-off with a 2-0 record.

“The opportunity to represent Gabe Miller and the player that he was by winning is substantial,” Gard said.

The Pioneers then played on Nov. 20 and set new university records for made three-pointers with 14 and steals with 24 in a 105-20 win over Illinois Tech.

Despite the high point total, the Pioneers leading scorer, Stocki, only had 12 points.  Nine of the 10 players entered in the contest for the Pioneers scored over three points.

The Pioneers then swept both of their games of the UW-Platteville Thanksgiving Classic Nov. 24 and 25.

They began the holiday tournament with a 30-point win over Lancaster Bible College, 82-52.  Stallion led the team with 15 points and six rebounds.

In the championship game, the Pioneers defeated Wartburg College 68-51.  This was the second time the Pioneers have seen the Knights this season, as they played them in a preseason exhibition.

The Pioneers took an early lead and never looked back, widening the margin to 12 at the half.  Wartburg started the second half by cutting the lead to 8, but the Pioneers answered and brought the lead up to 18 with 8:55 to play.