Showing up more than ready for an always highly-anticipated matchup in College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin (CCIW) play, the North Central College men's basketball team put together an overwhelming stretch of play in the first half en route to a 69-59 victory over Wheaton College at King Arena.
The Cardinals (8-1, 3-1 CCIW) initially fell behind, 5-1, before connecting on four straight three-point shots to open what wound up being a 40-5 scoring run spanning just over 12 minutes of play. Matt Cappelletti connected on two of the triples and Aiden Chang and Will Clausel each hit one, yielding a 13-5 lead and prompting a Wheaton timeout with 14:41 on the clock.
The Thunder's Aston Francis disrupted the surge with a three-pointer on the other end of the floor before North Central piled up nine more unanswered points. With the score at 22-10 with 9:45 to go, the Cardinals put up 19 unanswered points in a five-minute stretch, making 7 of 10 shots from the floor while harassing Wheaton into seven straight missed shots as the lead grew to 41-10 with 5:08 still left before the half. The hosts regrouped and closed the period with a 14-6 run and went into the locker room facing a 47-24 disadvantage. North Central made 9 of 17 three-point attempts (52.9 percent) and held the Thunder to 29.0 percent accuracy (9 of 31) from the field in the opening 20 minutes.
Wheaton (8-3, 1-2 CCIW) limited the Cardinals to 6 of 26 shooting in the second half and began fighting its way back into contention once play resumed, but was never able to get any closer than eight points down the stretch. North Central made 5 of 6 free throws late in the game to stall the Thunder's progress.
Cappelletti finished with 19 points, 15 of which came in the first half, and made 4 of 7 attempts from three-point range while Connor Raridon finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds to post his third double-double of the campaign.
Raridon's point total gives him 1,007 for his collegiate career, making him the 27th player in the program's history to score at least 1,000 points.
The Thunder got 20 points and eight rebounds from Francis and 15 points from Anajuwon Spencer.
The Cardinals travel to face Albion College (5-2) in non-conference play on Monday. Tipoff at Kresge Gymnasium is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. Eastern time.