Missionary men on brink of upset

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LAS VEGAS, Nev.— With Whitman College senior Josh Duckworth hitting a spectacular driving layup with 1.7 seconds remaining to force overtime, the Missionary men’s basketball team came tantalizingly close to taking down the top ranked team in all of NCAA Division III here Sunday.

In the end, however, the Pointers of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point kept their perfect record intact, downing Whitman by a final score of 89-79 in overtime at the D3hoops.com Classic.

Having won three national championships since 2004, UWSP has been perhaps the premier team in all of NCAA Division III over the last decade, and boasted a perfect 9-0 record coming into the game.

After starting the season 0-3, Whitman had reeled off five straight wins of their own, despite playing without reigning Northwest Conference MVP Ben Eisenhardt, out due to injury.

In a low-scoring first half, UWSP staked itself to a nine-point advantage midway through the first half, going ahead 20-11 on a Trevor Hass 3-pointer. Whitman responded with a 7-0 run, capped by a Dominic Lippi 3 pointer, to close to within 20-18 at the 9:43 mark.

The teams then traded baskets until the Missionaries finally caught the Pointers, knotting the score at 26-all on a Tochi Oti trey with 4:30 left in the half. The teams headed into the locker room with Stevens Point clinging to a 31-30 lead.

Oti led the Missionary attack in the opening stanza, scoring nine points, while Duckworth and Matt Mounier tallied sevem points apiece.

Whitman leaped back into the lead just 13 seconds into the second half on a Josh Duckworth 3-point bomb. The teams traded baskets and the lead over the second 20 minutes, as both teams found their shooting touch.

UWSP held a four-point lead with 25 seconds remaining, before Oti converted a runner to cut the lead to 67-65. Forced to foul, Whitman caught a break when UWSP missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 10 seconds remaining to set up a dramatic finish.

After taking an outlet pass from Mounier, Duckworth charged up the floor, found an angle to the rim and converted a twisting layup under heavy contact to knot the score at 67 with 1.7 seconds left.

Tyler Tillema’s half court heave was off the mark for Stevens Point, and the game headed to overtime.

Whitman took and held the lead in the extra period until a Tillema layup with 1:39 remaining tied the score at 77. Whitman turned the ball over on its next possession, resulting in another UWSP layup. With passions running high, Whitman’s bench was whistled for two technical fouls in rapid succession. Tillema converted 3-of-4 free throws to give the Pointers the lead for good.

Whitman cut the lead to four points on two Lippi free throws with 28 seconds left, and forced a five-second violation to regain possession of the ball. Mounier’s drive to the rim was off the mark, and the Missionaries were forced to foul.

Stevens Point went 4-for-4 from the foul line in the final 12 seconds to close out the scoring.

Duckworth led four Missionaries in double figures, tallying 22 points on 9-for-15 shooting.

Mounier and Oti scored 18 points apiece, while Lippi tossed in 13 points including three 3-point shots.

Mounier was named to the D3Hoops.com Classic All-Tournament Team after tallying a total of 48 points in two games.

Whitman outrebounded UWSP by a 38-31 margin, but the Pointers made the most of more trips to the charity stripe, converting 15-of-20 attempts to Whitman’s 9-of-12. Hass led all scorers, racking up 40 points on 15-of-24 shooting and was named tournament MVP.

Tillema was the only other Pointer in double figures, scoring 25 of his own.

Whitman finishes its pre-league schedule with a 5-4 record, while UWSP improves to 10-0. The Missionaries return to action Friday, as they begin Northwest Conference play in Salem, to take on Willamette University, followed by a trip to Forrest Grove, Ore. to play Pacific University on Saturday.

UW-Stevens Point 89, Whitman 79

WHITMAN — Mounier 7-12 3-4 18, Martin 4-5 0-0 8, Callahan 0-3 0-0 0, Lippi 3-9 4-4 13, Duckworth 9-15 1-1 22, Oti 8-17 1-3 18, Clough 0-0 0-0 0, Chircu 0-2 0-0 0, Thompson 0-2 0-0 0, Hays 0-0 0-0 0, French 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-65 9-12 79.

UW-STEVENS POINT — Heuer 1-3 0-0 2, Ryf 0-4 0-1 0, Tillema 9-10 7-8 25, Hass 15-24 4-4 40, Ritchay 2-8 2-3 6, McGann 0-0 0-0 0, Lutz 2-3 1-2 5, Forsythe 0-1 0-0 0, Pelkofer 1-4 0-0 2, Richard 4-5 1-2 9. Totals 34-62 15-20 89.

Halftime score — UWSP 31, Whitman 30. 3-point goals — Whit 8-20 (Mounier, Lippi 3, Duckworth 3, Oti), UWSP 6-20 (Hass 6). Total fouls — Whit 19, UWSP 16. Fouled out — Whit (Mounier). Technical fouls — Whit 2. Rebounds — Whit 38 (Mounier 7), UWSP 31 (Ritchay 9). Turnovers — Whit 13, UWSP 9. Assists — Whit 9 (Callahan 3), UWSP 17 (Tillema 5).

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