Warhawks hammer Northwestern in NCAA opener
Special to The Gazette
WHITEWATER--It’s always a good indicator of how things are going for a college basketball team when its home crowd starts chanting for its favorite bench players to see action.
UW-Whitewater could have easily taken requests from the fans late in the second half while it was cruising to a 79-55 victory over Northwestern (Minn.) in an NCAA Division III tournament opening-round game here Friday evening.
Reggie Hearn racked up a game-high 16 points, while Quardell Young added 14 and KJ Evans had 11 to lead Whitewater (24-4) to victory.
The Warhawks host Augustana (Ill.) in a second-round game here today at 7 p.m. The Vikings advanced after knocking off St. Thomas (Minn.) 88-77 on Friday.
“It was a good response after our loss to Stevens Point last week in the WIAC tournament,” UW-Whitewater coach Pat Miller said. “We needed a week to get everybody on board, and it was important that we played well and get different people extended minutes and get everybody a feel and get everyone ready for Augustana, because it’s going to be a great challenge.”
The Eagles tested the Warhawks for the first 10 minutes of the game, nearly matching Whitewater point for point.
But the Warhawks eventually adjusted the pace by taking advantage of the gaps in the Northwestern zone defense. They used nine offensive rebounds to ignite a 26-12 run and took a 39-24 halftime lead.
“One of the issues of playing zone is that it is difficult to get the rebounds,” said Miller, whose team made 4 of 9 3-point attempts in the first half. “And typically you play zone if you have good size or struggle playing man-to-man, and they struggled playing man against our quickness.”
The Eagles’ defensive struggles carried into the second half when the Warhawks quickly boosted their lead to 43-24 behind consecutive layups from Hearn and Alex Merg.
Northwestern then cut the lead back to 15, but the Warhawks responded with a 14-3 run to put the game out of reach for good.
The big lead triggered the calls for the bench players from the crowd.
Whitewater kept its starters in a few minutes longer to make sure the Eagles didn’t sneak back in the game.
“I’ve been around long enough and seen these games where they can turn pretty quickly,” Miller said. “I just wanted to stabilize it and then get the starters out.”
The Warhawk crowd finally got their wish in the final minutes after Miller opened up the bench and rested his starters for today’s game.