Wheaton, Ill. – The Wheaton College men's basketball team picked contributions from a mix of players on Wednesday night to earn an 88-82 CCIW victory at home against North Park (9-6, 0-4 CCIW).
Junior Jonathan Berntsen, who started tonight in place of injured junior Michael Berg, led the Thunder with a career-high 19 points. Berntsen shot 5-of-7 from the field, including 4-of-5 from three points range to lead the hosts in scoring. Senior Brayden Teuscher scored 18 points, with six rebounds and six assists. Junior forward Joel Smith continued his strong play with 16 points on 6-of-6 shooting from the field that included a 4-for-4 effort from three-point range. Peter Smith tallied nine points, with nine rebounds.
The Thunder received critical contributions off the bench from freshmen Murad Dillard and Ricky Samuelson. The duo played a key role tonight due to foul trouble for the Thunder and the recent string of injuries that have plagued the lineup. Dillard established a career-high 14 points, with seven rebounds in 31 minutes of action. Samuelson sank a pair of three-pointers to score six points in 18 minutes off the bench.
Wheaton shot a season-high 62.8% (27-of-43) field goal percentage tonight and also tallied a season-best 66.7% (14-of-21) effort behind the three-point arc. The Thunder posted an 80% (20-for-25) free throw percentage on the evening. Wheaton out-rebounded the Vikings 36-23 tonight, with North Park holding an 11-7 edge on the offensive glass.
The Vikings' only lead of the game was a 17-16 advantage for the guests with 13:01 remaining in the first half. Wheaton then scored 13 unanswered points to take a 29-17 lead with 9:35 remaining before halftime. The Vikings then countered with a 9-0 run to trim Wheaton's lead 29-26 with 6:57 left in the first half. The Thunder held a 40-37 lead at the halftime intermission.
The hosts opened the second half with a 17-6 scoring run that culminated with a layup by Dillard and a three-pointer by Samuelson that increased the Wheaton lead to 57-43 with 13:12 left in regulation. The largest Thunder lead of the game was 15 points which came on a second occasion thanks to a three-pointer by Berntsen with 12:02 left in the second half to give the hosts a 63-48 lead.
North Park's Juwan Henry made a layup and converted a free throw with 3:31 left in regulation to cut the Wheaton lead to six points at 76-70. Berntsen drained a long three-pointer on Wheaton's next possession to give the Thunder a 79-70 lead with 3:16 remaining in the game as the Thunder hung on for the victory.
Henry led all scorers with 32 points and five steals. Colin Lake contributed 20 points with four three-pointers for the Vikings. Jordan Robinson scored 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field for the guests.
The Vikings shot 40% (26-of-65) from the field, including 50% (11-for-22) from three-point range. North Park shot 86.4% (19-for-22) at the free throw line. The guests capitalized on 28 Wheaton turnovers in the game to score 35 points off of the Wheaton miscues.
Wheaton, now 8-7 on the season and 1-3 in conference play, will travel to top-ranked Augustana on Saturday night for a 7:00 p.m. tipoff with the Vikings.