Basketball team splits final games of season

Shawn Henley, Staff Writer

Wayne State College men’s basketball lost a close battle against Upper Iowa on Friday night, 67-65, but bounced back to complete the season sweep of Winona State on Saturday night, winning 74-59.

“I didn’t feel we played great on Friday,” Assistant Coach Nathan Stover said. “It had a lot to do with Upper Iowa. They are good team who was playing for the conference championship.”

The Wildcats started the game with a 7-3 lead, but then the Peacocks went on a 15-6 run to gain the upper hand 18-13 at the 8:06 mark of the first half. After WSC got back to within one point of the lead, UIU went on an 11-0 run, extending the advantage to 30-18.

WSC fought back to within five points, but UIU remained on top for the rest of the first half, going into halftime with a 33-27 lead.

As the second half started, the Peacocks looked as if they were running away with the game. However, the Wildcats rallied after trailing 52-44 with 9:44 remaining in the second half to take their first lead of the game on junior forward Brian Goodwin’s shot with 6:12 left.

Sophomore guard Kendall Jacks nailed two free throws after a foul that gave the Wildcats their final lead, 59-58. On the Peacocks’ next two possessions, they used a Carson Parker 3-pointer and two made free throws by Parker to give themselves a 63-59 lead.

The ’Cats did not go down without a fight, as they kept within one point of the Peacocks’ lead. However, UIU was perfect from the free throw line down the stretch and ultimately walked away the victor.

“We couldn’t get runs going,” Stover said. “We competed all right, but needed to take it to another level.”

Jacks and junior guard Austin Esters led the Wildcats in scoring with 15 each, followed by junior forward Jordan Cornelius with 10. UIU’s Josh Weeber scored a game-high 16 points.

The Wildcats fell to 9-18 overall and 7-14 in NSIC play, while the Peacocks improved to 19-8 overall and 16-5 in NSIC play following Friday night’s game.

Victories by the Wildcats and the Peacocks in the first round of the NSIC tournament would guarantee a third meeting between the two teams.

“If we win Wednesday, there is a very good chance we could play them again,” Stover said. “It would be really fun to play them again. I feel like we match up well against them.”

In Saturday’s final home game against Winona State, the Wildcats got off to a slow start, trailing 10-2.

Sophomore guard Vance Janssen made a layup with 9:39 left in the first half, giving the Wildcats their first lead, 13-12. The Wildcats never trailed again throughout the rest of the game.

WSC had a six-point lead with a little under four minutes remaining in the first half, but then scored the final 10 points of the half, leading 36-20 at halftime.

The Warriors got to within eight points of the Wildcat lead midway through the second half, but that was as close as they got for the rest of the game and the Wildcats finished strong to hold on for the win.

“We had great productivity off the bench,” Stover said. “It was a great way to end the regular season at home.”

Jacks led the scoring once again for WSC with 14, followed by Esters with 13 and Cornelius with 10. Riley Bambenek led the Warriors in scoring with 12 points.

“I just want them to play thankful on Wednesday,” Stover said. “If you’re thankful, you’re going to make your teammates play better and be at their best.”

The Wildcats travel to St. Cloud, Minn., to take on St. Cloud State in the first round of the NSIC Men’s Basketball Tournament tonight (Wednesday) at 7 p.m.