By RICK SOLEM
The UW-La Crosse men’s basketball team upset No. 7 UW-Whitewater on Wednesday.
At 3 p.m. Saturday, the Eagles get No. 1 and undefeated UW-Stevens Point (17-0, 8-0 WIAC). You can listen on AM 580 WKTY or watch right here to Mike Kearns and Scott Erickson, beginning with pregame at 2:45 p.m.
UW-SP 6-foot-3 senior guard Tyler Tillema is leading the team at 22.3 points, 4.1 assists a game. He’s shooting 55 percent from the field and 42 percent from beyond the arc.
Teammate Trevor Hass, a 6-4 guard, is averaging 17.6 points, shooting an incredible 53 percent from the field and 46 percent form downtown (50-for-108).
In the first meeting, which UW-SP won 74-61 on Jan. 4, Tillema had 18 and Hass, 16, but they were quiet from beyond the arc (1 of 7 combined).
The big difference, and what rarely happens for the Eagles (11-6, 5-3), they were outdone at the free-throw line of all things. The Pointers shot 15-for-21, while UW-L was just 3-for-3.
Despite UW-L’s season plan to bombs away from beyond the arc, their numbers are rarely so skewed at the stripe - though you'd maybe guess they would be, if a team is relying on the outside shot, but it's not the case. They’ve shot just as many free throws as their opponents.
And where UW-L, which snapped the nine-game win streak of UW-Whitewater (14-3, 5-3), has outdone the rest of the WIAC is from beyond the arc.
Against Whitewater, the Eagles hit a season-high 15 3-pointers, shooting a ridiculous 62 percent. They shot better from beyond the arc than inside it (50 percent inside arc).
For the season, La Crosse has shot 150 more 3-pointers than any opponent.
In the WIAC, they’ve shot nearly 50 more 3s than anyone and, incredibly, made 50 more and have the highest 3-point percentage in the conference (44%).
UW-L seemingly did everything right the first time against the Pointers. Most of the stats were even, except those 3-pointers, where the Eagles went 12-for-25, while UW-SP was just 3-for-12.
It simply came down to free throws, so look for those two factors to be the difference.