Pair of Huge Runs Help Statesmen Pull Away from V-Hawks
Oskaloosa–The William Penn men’s basketball team produced two double-digit scoring streaks in rallying past Viterbo 88-71 in Midwest Collegiate Conference play Wednesday.
The Statesmen (18-9, 8-3 MCC) remained in contention to claim a share of the league crown, albeit an unlikely chance. In order for this to occur, William Penn would have to defeat Grand View Saturday and also have St. Ambrose, ranked #28 in NAIA Division II, lose to the 1-26 AIB Eagles. WPU hosts the Vikings at 3 p.m. for its regular-season finale and Senior Day.
Wednesday’s victory guaranteed the navy and gold of the #2 seed in the MCC Tournament and a matchup with #7 AIB in next Wednesday’s quarterfinals. The other first-round matchups are also set with #3 Clarke hosting #6 Mount Mercy and #4 Viterbo hosting #5 Grand View.
Wednesday night’s matchups had loads of seeding implications as, with a loss, WPU would have fallen into a tie for third with Viterbo (15-13, 6-5 MCC). Fortunately, the Statesmen overcame injuries and a poor-shooting first half to be tied at 33 at intermission. The most notable health concern was Blake Walker (Sr., Rose Garden, Physical Education), who was scratched from the starting lineup for the first time since his sophomore year–an incredible streak of 79 consecutive games–and only the fourth time in his career.
Walker ended up playing and had a huge night. The senior fought through the pain and competed for 36 minutes. Leading scorer Kelly Madison (Jr., Des Moines, Iowa, Physical Education) was also bit by the injury bug during the contest and was limited to 18 minutes.
There were three ties and two lead changes in the first 20 minutes of action.
The visitors continued to make life tough for William Penn by storming out of halftime with seven straight points. Still down 46-41 with 15:40 on the clock, the Statesmen caught fire for the first of two occasions, scoring 17 unanswered over 3:37 and never trailed again.
Viterbo narrowed the margin to nine a few times, but the hosts put things to rest with a 12-0 run from the 7:16 mark to the 4:43 juncture.
When the dust settled in Penn Gymnasium, William Penn had narrowly outshot the V-Hawks 41.5%-41.2%, assisted greatly by a 55.6%-44.4% second-half edge.
While the improved shooting was noteworthy, it paled in comparison to the 28-12 rebounding advantage the Statesmen enjoyed post-break. William Penn outrebounded Viterbo 53-34 overall (22-11 offensive), leading to a 24-11 difference in second-chance points. Erik McGee (Jr., Oskaloosa, Iowa, Elementary Education) was of course right in the middle of the action with 12 caroms (7 offensive). Walker was right behind him, though, with 11 boards that were coupled with 21 points for a double-double (nearly a triple-double with seven assists). McGee notched a double-double as well with a ten-point showing.
Free-throw shooting also played a huge role in the victory as WPU got to the line 25 of its 29 times in the second half, making 18 tries (20 overall). Viterbo, on the other hand, was only 5-for-8 at the stripe in the meeting.
Roberts Baltruns (So., Riga, Latvia, Business Management) managed 19 points, while Alec Schwab (Jr., Peru, Ill., Business Management) had 14 and Madison had ten. Mike Aldeman (Jr., Iowa City, Iowa, Physical Education) stole two passes on top of five points as he started in place of Walker.
Although they had three more turnovers (12-9), the Statesmen claimed two more points off mistakes (14-12).
“I am so happy for our players tonight,” Head Coach John Henry said. “We started 0-4 and to be 18-9 right now is amazing. Our guys play together and play hard for each other.”