Welcome back! Plenty of thoughts for you on last night’s action, but first, the Game of the Day…
Game of the Day: ETBU @ McMurry
I have to venture down to my home state for this one on a fairly light night for ranked teams. Neither of these two are in the Top 25, but nonetheless, there’s a few storylines here. One being that McMurry is 5-0, the program’s best start to a season in I don’t know how long. Th Warhawks will face an elevated level of competition in this ASC opener, but are on their home court, and it might be their biggest test of the year so far. ETBU has won its last four, after opening the year with a loss to CNU, three of those victories coming on the road. We’ll see how both teams fare. I haven’t gotten a good look at either squad yet, so I’m interested to see what has been working for each team.
- The much-anticipated duel between #1 Hope and #15 Calvin certainly lived up to the expectations, as Hope came out with a 62-56 win. It’s hard to describe, but just by watching it, you can tell that is what good basketball truly is. Both sides were exceptional defensively, and yet it showed just how good each offense was, to find scoring opportunities despite the intensity opposing them. Hope did a nice job of keeping pressure on the ball, which led to 21 turnovers, and Calvin defended the three-point arc very well, holding the Flying Dutch to a 4-of-20 mark from long range. Ultimately, it was visible, as it always is, just how much this rivalry means to both sides. Each team had thoroughly prepared, and it showed. Also, thought it was notable that neither side went deep into its bench, instead relying on a small rotation. For Hope, that was just eight players, and Calvin played just one more, with nine.
- UW-La Crosse hosted #9 UW-Whitewater in a key WIAC battle, as Whitewater was looking to rebound from the Calvin loss and UWL attempted to keep its undefeated record alive. What played out was a fantastic chess match of sorts in La Crosse, as Whitewater won by the low score of 58-53. Whitewater shot 41.5% from the field, 50% from three-point range, compared to a 28.8% shooting mark, and 7.1% three-point mark for UWL. So what kept the Eagles in it? They got the free throw line. When shots aren’t going down, the free throw line becomes your best friend, and UWL found ways to get there frequently, making 18-of-24 attempts. Maggie Trautsch was very impressive for Whitewater. She has a good feel for the game, and shoots the ball with a lot of confidence. Had 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting last night.
- Staying in the great land of Wisconsin, #12 UW-Eau Claire was given all it could handle by UW-River Falls, on UWEC’s home court. The final was a 74-71 win for UWEC, but UWRF deserves a ton of credit. Down by 19 in the third quarter, the Falcons stormed back, cutting it to single digits early in the fourth then all the way to two. The shots just didn’t fall at the right times for UWRF late in that one, as UWEC kept its lead intact…barely. Just like in football, you never know what you’re going to get from the WIAC on any given night. Nobody has an easy victory in this league.
- Speaking of ranked teams battling in close games, #13 Mary Hardin-Baylor trailed Schreiner by six with under five minutes left, before slowly chipping away, leading to Catherine Kaiser’s layup with three-tenths of a second on the clock that broke a 61-61 tie. Great resilience by UMHB, who overcame a cold shooting night, and I’m also impressed by Schreiner’s play as of late. A team that uses a pressing defense, the Mountaineers had won three of their last four entering last night, and also lost to #24 Hardin-Simmons by just four at HSU back on Nov. 12. Pay attention to Schreiner in the SCAC.
- Getting back to the WIAC, be sure you’re paying attention to what head coach Kelly McNiff and her team from UW-Platteville is doing. At #19 UW-Oshkosh, UWP came away with a 60-35 win behind a huge second half. Very impressive effort from UWP, who had great bench contribution, and came up with 25 turnovers.
- Loras is probably one of those unranked teams you should keep an eye on. I’m not sure if they have a Top 25 resume just yet, but it possible they will if they can keep this momentum going. At home last night, Loras took down a solid, yet somewhat struggling Coe squad, 58-53, moving to 4-1 overall, 2-0 in ARC play. Honestly, it looked like Coe might pull this one out, leading by two as the fourth quarter began. But Loras outscored Coe 24-17 in the final quarter.
- Augustana looked really good in its CCIW opener against Wheaton last night, fighting for a 65-63 overtime win. I like what I’m seeing from Augie as of late, now 6-1 overall, and 1-0 in the CCIW. The Vikings shoot the ball so well (41% last night), and demonstrated tremendous poise down the stretch in what should give them some momentum heading into the duel with Millikin on Saturday.
I’m going to stop there! But the bottom line is there was a ton of great basketball last night, and so many impressive performances, both from teams and from individual players. That’s what conference play will do…it just elevates the intensity all the way around. Feels weird to be writing about conference play on December 1, but here we are. Whether a game is played on November 30 or February 15, every contest in conference play counts once it comes to tournament selection time. Hope you are doing well! Enjoy the start to the final month of 2022!