UW-La Crosse Earns WIAC Title with Win over UW-Stevens Point

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La Crosse, Wis. - The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse men's basketball team earned a 55-53 victory over UW-Stevens Point Saturday night in Mitchell Hall.  The Eagles improve to 16-9 overall and 10-4 in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) while the Pointers fall to 14-11 overall and 7-7 in the conference.  With the win, UWL earns its 12th (1915, 1919, 1922, 1924, 1925, 1931, 1932, 1937, 1951, 1964, 1965, 2016) WIAC title in school history and first since 1965. 

UWL will be the top-seed for the WIAC Tournament and host a semifinal Friday, February 26.  UW-Stevens Point, the sixth-seed for the league tournament, will play at third-seeded UW-Eau Claire in a first round contest Wednesday, February 24. 

The Pointers scored the first six points of Saturday's game before the Eagles responded with a 9-0 run to take a 9-6 lead with 15:44 remaining in the first half. UWL led 15-8 with 12:44 left after a Kenny Finco layup, but UW-Stevens Point cut the deficit to 18-15 with 9:19 remaining on a Zack Goedeke jumper.  The Eagles led 22-17 with 6:23 left when they used a 15-3 run to lead 37-20 with :34 left in the first half, connecting on six of their final seven shots from the field.  UWL led 37-22 at halftime.

UWL led 42-25 with 15:35 remaining in the game after a Ben Meinholz steal and dunk, but UW-Stevens Point went on a 9-2 run to cut the lead to 44-34 with 11:01 left on a Ethan Bublitz three-point field goal.  The Eagles took a 47-34 advantage with 9:43 remaining on Sean Wheeler's three-point play, but UWL missed its next 10 shots from the field.  UW-Stevens Point went on a 9-1 run to cut the lead to 48-46 with 3:27 left after a pair of Bublitz free throws.  Devin Yurk's three-point field goal with 3:10 left gave UWL a 51-46 lead and ended a 6:33 drought without a field goal for the Eagles. 

Sean McGann's three-pointer for UW-Stevens Point cut the lead to 51-49 with 2:52 left and a pair of McGann free throws with 1:56 tied the game for the first time since 6-6.  Yurk's three-point play with 1:36 left gave UWL a 54-51 advantage, but a pair of Stephen Pelkofer free throws cut the margin to 54-53 with 1:22 remaining.  The teams traded turnovers before a UWL missed jumper with :18 left.  Pelkofer turned the ball over on UW-Stevens Point's next possession and Ryan Kruser was fouled with :03 remaining.  Kruser made the first free throw for a 55-53 lead, but missed second.  The Pointers' missed a halfcourt shot at the buzzer.

UWL shot 35.7% from the field, including 31.6% (six-of-19) from three-point range, and 75.0% (nine-of-12) at the free throw line.  The Eagles shot 20.8% (five-of-24) from the field in the second half, including 11.1% (one-of-nine) from three-point range, but shot 70.0% (seven-of-10) at the line. 

UWL snapped a five-game losing streak to UW-Stevens Point with Saturday's win.

Meinholz led UWL with 16 points, six steals and three assists while also recording six rebounds.  Jared Staege finished with eight points and eight rebounds while Yurk totaled seven points. 

UW-Stevens Point shot 36.0% from the field, including 40.0% (eight-of-20) from three-point range, and 90.0% (nine-of-10) at the line.  The Pointers shot 50.0% (six-of-12) from three-point range in the second half. 

Pelkofer led three players in double figures for UW-Stevens Point with 18 points while also finishing with four assists.  Bublitz totaled 14 points while McGann had 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. 

UWL returns to action Friday, February 26 hosting a WIAC Tournament Semifinal at 7 p.m.