Round three – grudge match.
That’s the atmosphere that will be on the gym floor in the Kachel Gym in Whitewater tonight.
The No. 1 seeded UW-Whitewater men’s basketball team will face rival and No. 2 seed UW-Stevens Point for the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament title and an automatic bid to the national tourney.
With a conference championship and national bid on the line, there really doesn’t need to be much more to get players, coaches and fans excited.
The rivalry between the teams and the Warhawks’ (22-4 overall, 13-3 WIAC, ranked No. 8 in the latest D3hoops.com poll) close wins earlier in the season will have both teams focused on winning the automatic bid and WIAC bragging rights.
The Pointers (22-4, 12-4, No. 9 in D3hoops.com poll) lost heartbreakers to Whitewater earlier in the season.
Dec. 10 at UW-Whitewater, 67-60 F/OT
Tied 55-55 at the end of regulation, the Warhawks went on a 7-0 run to start the five minute overtime period. Jerrel Harris’ bucket brought the Pointers within three, but UW-W hit 3-of-4 free throws to pull away to the final 67-60 score.
Dustin Mitchell scored a game-high 19 for Whitewater while Dan Tillema had a team-high 15 for UW-SP
Jan. 27 at UW-Stevens Point, 61-58
Mitchell hit two free throws with four seconds left to put Whitewater up by three. Matt Moses couldn’t get a last second 3-ponter to fall and Whitewater took the game.
Mitchell (15 points) was one of three UW-W players to score in double-digits. Phil Negri finished with a game-high 16 points and Dupree Fletcher scored 14.
Moses finished with 12 points while Jared Jenkins and Louis Hurd scored 13 for the Pointers.
Feb. 27 at UW-Whitewater
It goes without saying tonight’s game will be a tight one. UW-W leads the WIAC averaging 78.8 points per game, while the Pointers allow a league low 60 points per game. The teams are practically even in most other statistical categories.
Both teams shoot well, both rebound well. The game could come down to turnovers. Whitewater has a -1.46 turnover margin to Steven Points’ +2.96. But the Warhawks have proven they can rise to the challenge the Pointers offer.
Prediction – Whitewater 62, Stevens Point 55.
It should be noted on the women’s side there is a nearly identical situation. No.1 UW-Whitewater (20-6, 12-4) and No. 2 UW-Stevens Point (20-6, 11-5) will play each other at Whitewater for the women’s WIAC conference title. The teams split the season series with the road team winning each matchup. Point won 68-51 at Whitewater and the Warhawks won 76-71 at Stevens Point.
The women tip-off at 3 p.m.