The second season got underway on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 2, as the Carthage College men's basketball team (7-5, 1-0 College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin), launched its conference schedule by holding onto a 74-71 win over Millikin University (6-6, 0-1 CCIW) at Tarble Arena in Kenosha, Wis.
Millikin opened up a 12-point lead midway thru the first period, 20-8, at 8:32. The Big Blue were still leading by 12 points, 31-19, at 3:32 before the Red Men closed out the half on a 14-5 run to trail by just three at the break, 36-33. Millikin went up by seven early in the second half, 40-33, at 19:22, but a 9-1 Carthage run put the Red Men up, 42-41, at 17:13. Carthage held serve for the next nine minutes and led by as much as eight points on two occasions, the last at 58-50 at 10:51. A 13-2 Millikin run gave the Big Blue a three-point lead, 63-60, at 7:28. The game went back-and-forth for the next three minutes, with the Big Blue last leading, 68-67, at 4:17. The Red Men took the lead for good, 70-68, at 3:05 on a three-pointer by Mike Leazer and hung on from there for a three-point decision, 74-71.
Carthage shot 50 percent (24-48), including nine-of-26 three-pointers, while Millikin shot 43 percent (26-60), including six-of-21 from three-point range. Carthage got to the free-throw line 21 times and made 17, while the Big Blue converted 13-of-18. Carthage won the rebounding battle by a 36-28 margin.
The Red Men's Tony Pierce Jr. (Sr., Evanston, Ill./Skokie-Niles West) led all scorers with a season-high 29 points on nine-of-17 field goals, including four-of-10 three-pointers, along with seven-of-nine free throws and four rebounds. Jordon Kedrowski (Fr., Bolingbrook Ill./Downers Grove-North) scored 16 points on seven-of-12 shooting, and Mike Leazer (Sr., Mount Prospect, Ill./Niles-Northridge Prep) added 12 points. Tommy Pilackas led Millikin with 21 points on seven-of-17 field goals and six-of-eight free throws. T.J. Sims came off the bench to score 17 points on six-of-10 shooting, including three-of-four from three-point range.
"This was a very good CCIW basketball game," said Carthage head coach Bosko Djurickovic. "Millikin has a nice team, and they play with a great purpose. They got their star player, T.J. Sims, back, and we kind of expected that. While we played poorly for 10 or 12 minutes in the first half, I thought we competed well in the second half and made the right plays at the right time. At halftime, we had 11 turnovers and no assists. I've never seen that. The second half was clearly better. Tony Pierce Jr., is as confident an offensive player as we've had in a long time, and he lets the game come to him. If you give him a shot, he's going to make it. He's a guard shooting over 50 percent from the floor. Other than Steve Djurickovic, we've never had a guard shoot over 50 percent."
Carthage plays host to North Park University (8-4, 0-1 CCIW) on Wednesday, Jan. 6 in a 7 p.m. game, also at Tarble Arena. The Vikings lost their conference-opener at North Central College, 76-64, on Saturday night. "Juwan Henry (22.2 points per game) is as good of an offensive player as we've seen in our league in awhile," pointed out Djurickovic. "He can be seven-for-22, or he can be 14-of-20—you just hope you get him on the right night. The guy who's their guy, and everybody should appreciate him, is Jordan Robinson, who's 6-3 and averages 23.2 points and 11.1 rebounds. He rebounds, he scores, and he shoots the three if you dare him to. He's a terrific player."