NAPERVILLE, Ill. — The University of Wisconsin–Platteville men's basketball team used a dominating defensive effort to upend sixth-ranked North Central College on its home court Tuesday night 57–40.
The Pioneers held the previously unbeaten Cardinals to just 29.1 percent shooting from the field (16-of-55), and limited North Central to just 16 second-half points.
UW–Platteville improved to 5–1 with the win, while NCC fell to 3–1.
A year ago the Cardinals hammered Coach Jeff Gard's Pioneers 82–52 at Bo Ryan Court, but this year's Gard's crew flipped the script. UW–Platteville outrebounded North Central 42–31, assisted on 13 of its 21 made baskets and made 10 of 13 free throws. The Pioneer bench also played a key role in the upset road victory outscoring the NCC bench 15–2.
Sophomore guard Robert Duax (Dubuque, Iowa/Hempstead) scored a game-high 15 points to go along with a team-high nine rebounds, three assists and three of the team's seven steals to lead the Pioneers.
Sophomore center Clay Gerds (Fort Atkinson) added 10 points, four rebounds and three big blocks to aid the UW–Platteville defensive effort. Junior forward Jake Showalter (Germantown) added nine points off the bench, while senior forward Cory Vaassen (Dickeyville/Cuba City) chipped in seven points and six boards.
Alex Sorenson scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead the Cardinals, but was held to 5 of 15 shooting, including 1 of 7 from beyond the arc. Sorensen scored a game-high 25 points in 24 minutes a year ago in NCC's 30-point win at UW–Platteville.
The Pioneers scored the game's first points on a Vaassen layup, but Sorensen scored five quick points to jumpstart a 10–3 North Central run that gave the home team a 10–5 lead less than five minutes into the game.
UW–Platteville responded with a 22–4 run of its own and never trailed again. Duax made a 3-pointer and Showalter converted a layup to tie the game at 10–10. Sophomore Colin Connelly (Guttenberg, Iowa) scored on a tip-in and Duax buried a jump shot to make it 14–10 with 10:28 left in the first half.
Gerds caught fire late in the half scoring on three straight possessions and hit back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 27–14 and the Pioneers took a 31–24 lead into the locker room at the half.
The Cardinals opened the second half on a 8–2 run to trim the cut the lead to a single points at 33–32 with 13:58 remaining, but the Pioneers held North Central to just eight points the rest of the game.
The Pioneers took a 51–40 lead on a pair of Showalter free throws with 5:25 left in the game and never team scored again for the next 4:21. Duax made four straight free throws in the final minute and Matt Oestreich (Marshfield) got open for a layup to close out the win.
The Pioneers will return to action Saturday at Central (Iowa). Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. The undefeated Dutch (4–0) are coming off a 143–128 win over Grinell College.
By Jason Nihles, UW–Platteville Athletics