Second-half surge boosts No. 1 NWU past Linfield

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McMINNVILLE, Ore. – An 11-0 run midway through the second half enabled top-ranked Nebraska Wesleyan to turn the tables on upset minded Linfield Monday night at Ted Wilson Gymnasium.
Ryan Garver scored 16 of his 23 points in the second half, helping the defending NCAA Division III national champions defeat the Wildcats 90-79 and extend their winning streak to 24 games. A night earlier, the Prairie Wolves (11-0) defeated neighboring George Fox by the same 11-point margin.
Unranked Linfield (6-2) looked primed to pull off the upset after a solid opening half in which the 'Cats took a nine-point lead into intermission. But the Linfield's three-point accuracy took a turn for the worse when play resumed and Nebraska Wesleyan calmly overcame the early deficit.
"I was extremely proud of our team tonight, playing against an excellent team in Nebraska Wesleyan and putting forth a great game," said Linfield coach Shanan Rosenberg. "The difference was just few plays. They made them and we didn't down the stretch. It was a well-played game on both sides in terms of competitive spirit, ball security and effort."
'Cat Stats
Dempsey Roggenbuck and Will Burghardt led Linfield with 18 points each. Roggenbuck made 6 of 12 shots but was saddled with foul trouble early in the second half and did not return to the floor until five minutes remained. Burghardt connected on 7 of 13 shots, including four three-pointers, while adding eight assists, three rebounds and two steals in 38 minutes of action.
Riley Bruil chipped in with 16 points, three assists and three steals. Grant Gibb nabbed a team-high seven rebounds while adding six points. Liam O'Reilly totaled 13 points, five assists and a pair of steals. Austin Hilton came off the Linfield bench to contribute six points, five rebounds and two blocked shots.
Prairie Wolves by the Numbers
Garver and Nate Bahe shared game-high scoring honors, each with 23 points. Garver was all but unstoppable, hitting 10 of 13 shots while adding five rebounds and five assists. Clay Reimers totaled a game-high 11 rebounds. Nate Schimonitz added 14 points, seven assists and four rebounds. Cooper Cook added 14 points, including two of the Prairie Wolves' 11 three-pointers.
How it played out
Fueled by nine three-pointers, including three by Bruil, the Wildcats blazed to a nine-point halftime advantage, 45-36. Linfield shot 52.9 percent in the period compared to NWU's 44.4. The Prairie Wolves attempted 14 three-pointers in the game's opening half, but converted just three. That all changed in the second stanza when NWU hit 8 of 12 from outside the arc.
Roggenbuck paced Linfield with 12 first-half points while Will Burghardt netted 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting. Bahe totaled 10 points and five rebounds for NWU.
Trailing by nine at the break, Nebraska Wesleyan kept its poise, steadily whittling away Linfield's lead before surging in front with an 11-0 push beginning at the 9:16 mark. Linfield's scoring drought concluded with Hilton's tip-in with 6:23 to play, but by that point, the Prairie Wolves led 71-64 and were in firm control.
The 'Cats managed to snip the margin to three, 73-70, following a three by Roggenbuck with 4:21 left, but the Prairie Wolves pumped their advantage back to 10, 82-72, after Garver hit a three of his own.
NWU sank 69.2 percent of its shots in the second half while Linfield cooled to 37.9 from the field.
Rosenberg's remarks
"Will Burghardt and Riley Bruil were terrific, playing longer minutes and both gave it all they had. Dempsey as well, but it was tough with him picking up his fourth foul early in the second half, but he played his heart out.
"Austin Hilton did a great job for us and Liam O'Reilly did a nice job attacking and finishing inside.
"No one was satisfied in our locker room. Guys hurt. We have outstanding competitors who gave their all tonight. Linfield should be proud, I know I am. We look forward to getting prepared for UC Santa Cruz on Friday."
Linfield hosts UC-Santa Cruz Friday afternoon at Ted Wilson Gymnasium. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m.