La Crosse, Wis. - The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse men's basketball team improved to 4-0 on the season with a 65-63 win over 20th-ranked Saint John's University (Minn.) Wednesday night in Mitchell Hall. The Johnnies, ranked 20th on the D3hoops.com Preseason Top-25 Poll, falls to 2-1 on the year. It marks the second straight season UWL has won its first four games.
In the first meeting between the teams since the 1998-99 season, Saint John's (Minn.) raced out to an 11-2 lead after Patrick Strom's layup with 15:18 left in the first half. The Johnnies led 28-21 with 5:06 remaining on David Stokman's three-pointer, but the Eagles used a 13-3 run 34-31 lead on a pair of Terek Nesheim free throws with 1:26 left. Saint John's (Minn.) led 35-34 at halftime after Stokman's two free throws with :15 remaining.
Nesheim's two free throws with 17:09 left in the game gave UWL a 38-37 lead. Saint John's (Minn.) responded with an 8-1 run to lead 45-39 with 14:25 remaining after Tyler Weiss' jumper. UWL later cut the deficit to 49-44 with 10:15 remaining on a Ben Meinholz' layup when Saint John's (Minn.) scored seven of the next nine points to lead 56-46 with 7:56 left. The Johnnies led 58-48 with 7:17 remaining, but the Eagles went on a 15-4 run to lead 63-62 with :58 left on two Meinholz free throws. Saint John's (Minn.) went two-of-eight from the field in UWL's run while the Eagles hit three 3-point field goals, including two from Nesheim and one from Taulvish McCray.
Saint John's (Minn.) tied the game, 63-63 with :36 left after Lucas Walford hit one-of-two at the line. Meinholz was fouled on UWL's ensuing possession and made both free throws with :17 remaining. Stokman missed a potential game-winning three-pointer with :03 left with Brendon Manning securing the rebound.
UWL shot 35.0% from the field, including 40.0% (six-of-15) from three-point range, and 73.9% (17-of-23) at the free throw line. Meinholz led the Eagles with 22 points and nine rebounds. He tied for the team lead with four steals with McCray. Nesheim finished with 13 points.
Saint John's (Minn.) shot 42.9% from the field, including 21.1% (four-of-19) from three-point range, and 73.3% (11-of-15) at the line. The Johnnies missed all seven of their second half three-point attempts. Stokman led Saint John's (Minn.) with 22 points while Jubie Alade finished with 12 points. Weiss totaled 10 points and game-high 10 rebounds. Garrett Goetz had a game-high nine assists.
UWL returns to action Saturday, November 25 hosting Bethel University (Minn.) at 2 p.m.