Wheaton, Ill. - The Wheaton Thunder men's basketball team (2-0) earned a hard-fought 75-74 victory against Baldwin Wallace (1-1) on Saturday night in the championship game of the Lee Pfund Classic. Wheaton's Ricky Samuelson converted a traditional three-point play with nine-seconds remaining in regulation to take the one-point lead. Baldwin Wallace's Cam Kuhn missed a three-pointer with two-seconds left in the game and the ball landed out of bounds with possession for the Thunder as Wheaton emerged with the dramatic win.
Samuelson led all players with 29 points on 10-of-11 shooting from the field, with five rebounds. The Thunder senior was named the Will Landry Most Valuable Player for the tournament. Junior Aston Francis earned an All-Tournament spot with 22 points and six assists. Kobe Eichelberger scored eight points and Cade Alioth contributed seven points with four rebounds off the bench. Trevor Gunter scored six points on 3-of-3 shooting from the floor. Junior Luke Peters led the hosts with six rebounds and he distributed a team-high seven assists.
The first half was indicative of the tightly contest matchup as the score was tied seven times in the first 20 minutes and the lead changed on 12 occasions. The contest was tied 36-36 at the halftime intermission.
Samuelson made a three-pointer with 11:03 left in regulation for give Wheaton a 48-47 lead and Baldwin Wallace's Jake Fetherolf drained a three on the next play to give the guests a 50-48 lead. Francis made a basket on the Wheaton possession that followed and his field goal sparked a string of eight unanswered points to give the Thunder a 56-50 lead with 8:20 remaining in regulation. The Yellow Jackets chipped away at the Thunder advantage and regained the lead at 61-60 with 6:20 remaining in the game.
The contest was tied 67-67 with 4:00 remaining in regulation when Francis made the final three-pointer of his four trifectas on the night to give the hosts a 70-67 lead. Baldwin Wallace's Tyler Colombo made one of two free throw attempts to trim the Thunder lead to 70-68 with 3:37 left in the contest. Francis dished the ball off to Gunter who made a layup with 3:08 left to increase the Wheaton advantage to 72-68. A dunk by Fetherolf and a pair of free throws by Cam Kuhn on back-to-back Baldwin Wallace possessions tied the game at 72-72 with 1:53 left.
The two teams traded scoreless possessions over the next 1:30 of play. Kuhn scored with just 22-seconds remaining to give the Yellow Jackets a 74-72 advantage. Wheaton worked the ball around on its next possession and Francis passed the ball inside to Samuelson who shot a jumper off the glass and into the net and drew a foul. He converted the free throw attempt that followed to account for the 75-74 lead with nine-seconds remaining. Kuhn's three-pointer missed the rim and landed out of bounds as Wheaton gained the victory.
Wheaton shot 51.9% (28-fo-54) from the field, including 36.8% (7-for-19) from three-point range. Baldwin Wallace posted a 41.9% (26-for-62) field goal percentage, with 31% (9-of-29) behind the three-point arc. Wheaton shot 66.7% (12-of-18) at the free throw line and the Yellow Jackets had a 76.5% (13-of-17) effort at the charity stripe. Baldwin Wallace out-rebounded the Thunder 41-25, including a 15-4 edge on the offensive glass.
Wheaton travels to Calvin College on Tuesday for a 7:30 p.m. (EST) tipoff against Knights.