Evans leads UW-Whitewater's second-half surge
Special to The Gazette
WHITEWATER--UW-Whitewater forward KJ Evans wasn’t ready to call it a season on Saturday night.
With Whitewater and Augustana tied at 48 early in the second half of an NCAA Division III second-round game, Evans took charge during the Warhawks’ game-changing 22-4 run.
The Beloit Memorial High graduate unloaded 11 points during the decisive run to propel the Warhawks past Augustana, 87-68.
Evans finished with a game-high 25 points, while Quardell Young had 18 to push Whitewater (25-4) into a Sweet 16 matchup with University of Texas-Dallas at a site to be determined.
Dallas punched its ticket to the Sweet 16 on Nolan Harvey’s game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer in overtime to upset Whitworth 78-77.
Whitewater, however, didn’t have nearly as exciting a finish as it rolled to victory.
“I thought we stayed after them, and I thought in the first half we were close to making runs, but Hunter Hill hit a couple big shots that stifled our momentum,” UW-Whitewater coach Pat Miller said. “Going into the game, I thought they had tough game against St. Thomas and I really thought if we could pressure them and make the game difficult, we could take control of the game late, and we did that.”
Augustana didn’t go down without a fight, turning a 44-39 halftime deficit into a 48-48 tie with 16 minutes left in the second half.
With his team needing a spark, Evans got the Warhawks going with a 3-pointer. He added nine more points during the run, including a thunderous one-handed breakaway dunk that brought the crowd to its feet and put Whitewater up 70-52 with just under nine minutes to play.
“My teammates did a great job getting me open and getting the ball to me, whether it was in transition and half court, and I was able to take advantage,” Evans said. “I’m not ready for it to be over yet, so I’ll do whatever it takes to keep winning.”
The emotionally and physically beaten Vikings never drew closer than 14 the rest of the way.
“Our defensive effort was excellent in the second half,” Miller said. “We slowed them down.”
Augustana had much more fight in the first half and kept the game close behind Hunter Hill’s 13 points.
Odegaard answered Hill with 12 points in 13 minutes off the bench to keep Whitewater on top for most of the first half. Odegaard’s hot shooting spear-headed Whitewater’s 54-percent field-goal shooting in the first half and a 44-39 halftime lead.
Whitewater eventually took over in the second half in advancing to the Sweet 16.