Reserves Spark North Central Men in Win over Wheaton

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On a night when not a single starter scored in double figures, the North Central College men's basketball team still had just enough firepower to score a win over its longest-standing rival Saturday night, as the Cardinals' bench players stepped up and helped lead the way to a 63-62 victory over Wheaton College at Gregory Arena. 

In the 182nd meeting between the two teams, North Central added a second victory to the 75-70 overtime triumph it recorded at the Thunder's home court on Jan. 10, recording its first season sweep of Wheaton since the 2010-2011 campaign. 

The Cardinals (15-5, 5-4 College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin) got 33 points off of their bench, led by Erwin Henry's season-high 17 points. Henry emerged from a four-game stretch where he scored just 12 points combined to make 7 of 13 shots from the floor and make what turned out to be the game-winning basket with 13 seconds on the clock.

The lead changed hands seven times in the first 10 minutes of the contest. North Central pulled ahead, 21-18, after Henry sank a jumper and David Fuller stole the ball and fed Charles Rosenberg for a fast-break layup and led for the remainder of the first half. The Cardinals took their largest lead of the opening period at 35-28 on Mike Reinke's inside bucket, though Wheaton's Joel Smith sank two free throws in the final minute to send the Thunder into halftime with a 35-30 deficit.

North Central owned its largest lead at 48-39 with 13:25 to play before the Thunder began their comeback bid with a 13-3 run over the next five minutes, taking a 52-51 lead after Ricky Samuelson's three-pointer with 8:09 remaining. Henry scored twice in the lane to regain the lead for the Cardinals. His attempt at a third straight basket was off the mark, butKevin Honn tipped the ball in to give the hosts a 57-52 lead and prompt a Wheaton timeout with 6:19 to play.

Following the timeout, Wheaton regrouped and scored on Michael Berg's dunk. The Cardinals got two free throws fromJack Burchett, but the Thunder's Brayden Teuscher responded with a three-pointer and a driving jumper to tie the score at 59-59 with 2:44 left. Wheaton's Joel Smith improved his game-high scoring total to 24 points with a three-pointer to move the visitors in front, 62-59, for the first time in nearly 28 minutes.

Smith had an opportunity to extend Wheaton's lead at the free-throw line with 34 seconds left, but missed the front end of a one-and-bonus opportunity. Henry grabbed the rebound and Honn drove to the basket for a layup despite getting fouled. Honn's game-tying free throw attempt fell was unsuccessful, and Berg was fouled in the scramble for the ball. Berg also missed the front end of his one-and-one, and Burchett came down with the ball to give the Cardinals one final possession.

The Cardinals' starting center, Burchett was instructed by the coaching staff to take over the point-guard duties with the game on the line. Burchett drove the lane and delivered a spinning bounce pass to Henry, who laid the ball in for the final basket of the night. 

Henry was the only Cardinal to score in double figures. Burchett, Rosenberg and Evan Fendley each scored eight points, and Burchett also led North Central with four assists and three steals. 

Smith made 8 of 11 shots to lead Wheaton's efforts, while Teuscher put up 14 points and five assists for the Thunder (9-11, 2-7 CCIW).

North Central travels to face fourth-ranked Augustana College on Wednesday, with tipoff at the Carver Center set for 7 p.m. The Vikings (17-3, 7-2) are coming off a 76-69 loss to North Park University on Saturday.