Men finish season 19-9, best under Gard

The University of Wisconsin-Platteville men’s basketball season came to a close on Saturday Feb. 23 as the Pioneers fell to the defending national champions University of Wisconsin-Whitewater 66-55.
The team finished the year with a 19-9 overall record and a 10-6 record in the WIAC.
“We never got tied up in being underdogs going into a game,” junior center Chas Cross said. “We prepared for every team the same and knew that we needed to go out and execute our game plan. If we could execute that, then we knew we could be competitive in our league.”
The Pioneers made WIAC history by becoming the first five-seed team to play in the WIAC Championship Tournament finals.
Head coach Jeff Gard said having so many returning players allowed the team to have experience, which led them to a successful season in the competitive WIAC conference this year.
Some highlights from the season include an 11-2 record on Bo Ryan Court, setting a university record for points allowed with 20 against Illinois Tech Nov. 20, a five-game winning streak to begin the season, and defeating two NCAA Division III Championship Tournament teams.
Along with making WIAC history, the team members also received individual awards. Cross was named the WIAC Player of the Year, sophomore forward Jake Manning was named to the All-WIAC Honorable Mention team, and senior forward Rob Stallion was named to the WIAC All-Defensive team. Senior guard Marcus Jackson was also named to the WIAC All-Sportsmanship team.
Stallion emphasized the growth the team went through this season.
“The second conference loss to Whitewater (64-50 on Feb. 6) was a learning experience,” Stallion said. “We became more aggressive and knew it was do-or-die time.”
This new focus late in the season showed in the Feb. 9 victory over University of Wisconsin-La Crosse at home 77-70. They carried on by defeating University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire 76-65.
The Pioneers won a back-and-forth contest against UW-La Crosse 60-58 in the first round of the WIAC tournament. In the next battle to the championship, the Pioneers beat University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point 60-56 in the semi-final game, sending them to the WIAC Championship.
Looking ahead to next season, the Pioneers return four of five starters in Cross, Manning, sophomore guard Jim Stocki and junior guard Eric Gerber. Sophomore Coop Lewis and freshman Cory Vaassen will also be back, giving the Pioneers potential be in contention for a NCAA Tournament bid in 2013-14.