The last time the University of Wisconsin-Platteville played a home NCAA Division III playoff game, Bo Ryan was the coach, not the name of the court. The result, however, for the Pioneers was the same in 2018 as it was in their 1999 national championship run.
The Pioneers pulled away from Monmouth, Illinois 91-76 in the first round game Friday on Bo Ryan Court in Williams Fieldhouse. With the win, the Pioneers not only advanced to Saturday's second round, but they improved their all-time NCAA III playoff record to 32-6, the best record in D3 history.
"The first one is always the hardest one," Pioneer Coach Jeff Gard said. "These guys have not been in this tournament environment, the NCAA tournament. Getting the first one off your back takes some of the nerves away."
The Pioneers will play host to St. Olaf College Saturday at 7 p.m. The Oles defeated Sul Ross State 88-75 in Friday's first contest.
The Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular season champions burst out to a 12-2 lead against the Midwest Conference champions with seven points by Robert Duax and five by Clay Gerds. The Scots closed within 20-18 and hung tight for the rest of the first half, which ended with the hosts ahead 39-36. Monmouth took the lead at 43-42 on a Justin Aluyah three-point play and stretched it to 48-42 on an Aluyah three-point shot. The Pioneers tied the game at 53 on a Matt Oestreich three-pointer with 12:38 remaining and re-took the lead at 55-53 on two Quentin Shields' free throws.
Leading 69-65, the Pioneers scored 10 straight points. Oestreich made a three-point basket, a layup and a jump shot, and Carter Voelker finished the run with the field goal for a 78-65 lead with 3:26 left.
"I told our guys in the locker room that we overcame some adversity," Gard said. "We got down, and that's really one of the first times this year we have found ourselves behind and having to work from there. I give our guys credit for staying the course. We made the defensive stops when we needed to."
UW-Platteville, ranked eighth in the D3hoops.com poll, improved to 23-4, while Monmouth, making its first national playoff appearance since 1990, finished its season at 20-8. The Scots tied their school record for wins in a season.
Five Pioneers scored in double figures, led by WIAC MVP Duax with 20, Oestreich 19, Gerds 16, Shields 15 and Jake Showalter with 11.
"The experience is great," Oestreich said. "This is the best environment I have ever played in."
MWC Player of the Year Will Jones scored 24, Aluya had 19, and Stephon Bobbitt and D.J. Swift each had 10 for the Scots, who had their nine-game winning streak snapped.
"Give credit to Monmouth," Gard said. "Todd (Skrivseth) has done a great job. We knew it was going to be a dog fight. He's a former UW-Whitewater assistant coach, and he knew exactly what was coming at him. He had his guys prepared."
St. Olaf 88, Sul Ross State 75
St. Olaf College held off Sul Ross State University 88-75 Friday night in the first round of the NCAA Division III men's basketball tournament in Platteville, Wisconsin.
The Oles improved to 20-7, while Sul Ross State finished its year at 22-7 after a battle of teams who earned two of the 21 at-large berths into the national playoffs.
St. Olaf, making its fourth tournament appearance in five years, will play in Saturday night's contest against host UW-Platteville.
The Lobos scored the game's first seven points, but the Oles tied the game at 15 with 12:31 left in the first half. Noah Bank drilled a three-point shot a minute later, and the Oles never trailed again. St. Olaf led by as many as 15 in the first half and settled for a 43-36 halftime lead.
The Texas squad closed within three points on three separate occasions in the second half, but each time the Minnesotans had answers. A Conner Dawson three-point basket brought Sul Ross State within 72-67, but the Oles answered with a 9-2 run to take an 81-69 lead wth 1:46 remaining that sealed the contest.
Austin Korba scored 22 points, and Robert Tobroxen scored 20 to lead the Oles, who knocked down 31-36 from the free throw line. Caleb Thomasson, the American Southwest Conference West Division Player of the Year, paced four Lobos in double figures with 21 points, while Dawson had 11, and B.J. Hollis and Tristen Licon each scored 10.
By Paul Erickson, Director, UW-Platteville Communications, 608.342.1194, email@example.com