Warhawks Top MIT, Play for National Championship Saturday
UW-Whitewater, the number six defense in Division III, held MIT scoreless for a six minute stretch of the second half as UW-W reeled off a 14-2 run in a 71-56 win in a NCAA III tournament semifinal game in Salem, Virginia Friday. Whitewater, 28-4, will play Cabrini College, 31-1, in the Division III championship game Saturday at 7:00 (Eastern) in the Salem Civic Center.
Chris Davis (Madison/East) opened the game with a three-pointer, giving Whitewater a lead it never gave up in the first half. The Warhawks led by seven twice, 21-14 on a Quardell Young (Kenosha/Bradford) driving layup at 7:52 and 23-16 on a Davis fallaway with 6:30 on the clock. MIT came back to tie the game 26-26 on a Will Tashman put back as time ran out.
Both teams' offense struggled, which in a glass half full world means the defenses controlled the first twenty minutes. Whitewater shot 41% from the floor, MIT 43%. UW-W went 1-8 beyond the arc, MIT 1-7. The teams combined for two made free throws. Davis, who had to spend some time on the bench with foul trouble, led all scorers with nine.
Mitchell Kates scored in the lane to open the second half, giving the Engineers their first lead of the game. A short while later Kates scored on a length of the court layin to keep MIT in front 32-30, the last time MIT had the lead. The Warhawks followed with a 14-0 run, keeping MIT off the scoreboard from 16:51 to 10:20, while Davis accounted for eight of Whitewater's points in the surge. With 3:56 left Davis hit a three from the top of the key to make it 57-39, the largest lead of the game. For the last three plus minutes MIT went into the "hack a 'Hawk" mode, fouling to stop the clock, but the closest the Engineers got was 65-52 with 1:52 remaining.
Whitewater held MIT to 40% shooting, 36% in the second half, including 3-20 from three point range. UW-W shot 44%, just 2-11 from long range. The Warhawks made 21-31 free throws, MIT 11-15. UW-W had a 38-30 rebound advantage, and forced 15 turnovers while committing ten. Davis, the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and D3hoops.com West Region Player of the Year, led both teams with 30 points. Sophomore guard Eric Bryson (Elkhorn) earned a double double, ten points and ten rebounds for the Warhawks. The Engineers had four players score in double figures, led by junior center Will Tashman's 15 points and game high 14 rebounds. Whitewater's Alex Merg (Greendale) had a game high five assists.
In Friday's first semifinal junior guard Jeremy Knowles hit a three-pointer, his only three of the game, with 3.6 seconds left to give Cabrini College an 81-78 win over Illinois Wesleyan University. Senior guard John Boyd, who came into the game averaging 10.9 points per contest, scored 34 points for the Cavaliers, 24 of those coming in the first half. Jordan Zimmer led IWU with 19. Cabrini, 31-1, and IWU, 24-8, combined for 53 three-point attempts.
Whitewater, in its sixteenth NCAA III tournament appearance, is in its fourth final four and third national championship game. UW-W defeated Clark University (MA) 103-86 at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1984, and the Warhawks won the 1989 title with a 94-86 win over Trenton State College (now The College of New Jersey) at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio in 1989. Cabrini is making its twelfth run in the NCAA III tourney and first appearance in the final four.
UW-W could be the first NCAA Division III team to win national championships in football and basketball in the same year. The feat has been accomplished twice, both times in Division I. The University of Florida won both football and men's basketball in 2006, and the University of Tennessee won football and women's basketball in 1998.