GREEN BAY — Sophomore guard Robert Duax (Dubuque/Hempstead) had a game-high 25 points, five rebounds and four assists to lead the University of Wisconsin–Platteville men's basketball to a 74–65 victory over the University of Northwestern (Minn.) in the opening game of the Nicolet National Bank Holiday Tournament in Green Bay Thursday night.
The Pioneers (7–3) advance to play host Saint Norbert (6–2) Friday at 7 p.m. in the championship game at UW–Green Bay's Kress Events Center. The Green Knights defeated Finlandia (2–6) in Thursday's other semifinal 88–35.
The Eagles, who had won six of their last seven games entering Thursday's game, fell to 6–4 overall.
Junior guard Matt Oestreich (Marshfield) added 15 points, five boards and four assists for the victorious Pioneers. Junior forward Jake Showalter (Germantown) scored 13 points in 24 minutes off the bench. Junior guard Trey Sigel (Rock Island, Ill.) chipped in nine points and three assists.
The Pioneers shot 47.4 percent (27 of 57) from the field and made 8 of 20 3-point attempts. They also converted 12 of 15 from the free throw line, including a perfect 6 of 6 in the final 42 seconds.
Will Gisler had 18 points, seven rebounds and two assists to lead Northwestern. Porter Morrell (13 points) and Cody Sprenger (11) also scored in double figures for the Eagles.
UW–Platteville jumped out to an early 15–3 lead less than four minutes into the game, as Sigel hit a pair of 3-pointers and Duax also scored from downtown. The Pioneers maintained their double–digit lead throughout the first 10 minutes of the game as a Duax tip-in made it 23–11, but the Eagles closed the half on an 11–4 run to tied the game at 38–38 going into intermission.
The Pioneers reclaimed a six-point lead just two minutes into the second half at 46–40, but again Northwestern rallied to tie the game at 48–48 three minutes later.
Duax answered with a 3-pointer on an assist from senior Cory Vaassen (Dickeyville/Cuba City). Showalter added a layup moments later on a feed from Oestreich to make it a five-point UW–Platteville lead and Northwestern never did take the lead in the second half. In fact, UNW never led in the game.
The Eagles cut the lead to two at 65–63 on a three-point play by Gisler with 2:14 left to play, but Showalter buried a clutch 3-pointer with 54 seconds left and Duax (4 of 4) and Vaassen (2 of 2) made six straight free throws in the final 42 seconds to provide the final nine point margin of victory.
By Jason Nihles, UW–Platteville Athletics