The University of Wisconsin-Superior men’s basketball team played yet another close game Wednesday night when it hosted the Northwestern Eagles at Mertz Motorelli Gym.
Eleven of the Yellowjackets’ 13 conference games this season have been decided by single digits and their last three losses were by a total of five points.
UWS turned that around Wednesday night when they overcame a 32-28 halftime deficit to defeat the Eagles 72-65.
“The last four games have been — we lose by two with a chance to win it, Scholastica wins on a last-second free throw, we win on a buzzer beater and then Northland wins on a buzzer beater, so we’ve been in some tight ones,” UWS coach Greg Polkowski said. “We’ve been getting better and the guys have done a great job of staying locked in. When you lose close ones like that, it’s tough to stay focused, so the guys did a great job concentrating on tonight’s game.”
Leading the Yellowjackets were Vid Milenkovic, Colton Williams and Shaq Coleman.
Milenkovic scored a game-high 22 points, hitting 8-of-9 shots, with five assists and one steal despite playing most of the second half in foul trouble. The junior from Zurich, Switzerland, ended up playing 39 minutes, including all 20 in the second half.
“That was risky, I had to be smart on the defensive end, but it all worked out,” Milenkovic said. “My success on offense was mostly because of great ball movement by my teammates.”
Williams added 20 points, including 13 in the second half, and had six rebounds despite picking up his fourth foul with seven minutes remaining and later fouling out; and Coleman, who scored 30 points in a loss earlier in the season at Northwestern, was held to 14 points, but had game-highs with seven rebounds and five assists along with three steals.
Montroy Scott was also in double-digits, getting 10 points and five rebounds.
“Vid and Colton shot it well, but Shaq did a great job of passing the ball and setting them up,” Polkowski said. “Credit to them for knocking them shots down, but if Shaq doesn’t make those passes, none of this happens.”
UWS quickly erased the four-point halftime deficit when Milenkovic nailed a 3-pointer seconds in and Williams followed with a pair of 3-pointers and a turnaround jumper to give the Yellowjackets a 39-34 lead.
“I was just feeling it -- we had to make shots to stay in the game so that’s just what I was doing, just trying to contribute to the team,” Williams said. “It feels good to get this win. We’ve been playing in a lot of close games, too many to count, so it feels good to get one to fall into the ‘W’ column instead of losing.”
A Coleman basket and a Scott 3-pointer put UWS up 52-43 with 10:43 remaining.
The Eagles eventually got within four points three different times, but a Nate Kalien 3-pointer gave UWS a 59-68 lead with 3:12 left.
Northwestern got within four points again (68-64) on two free throws by Caleb Hageman and a 3-pointer by Anderson Bazile, but the Yellowjackets sealed the victory with two free throws apiece by Milenkovic and Coleman.
“This win feels good,” Milenkovic said. “It means a lot, we’ve been working very hard. We knew we could compete with everyone in the league, we have to keep bringing it on.”
The beginning of the game was as close as it could get with seven lead changes and a 15-15 tie.
A 14-4 run, ending with a Hageman 3-pointer, allowed the Eagles to open up a 29-19 lead.
A Scott basket, off an offensive rebound, stopped the Northwestern run, and a 3-pointer by Williams and a two-pointer by Milenkovic got UWS within 28-26.
The first half ended with Northwestern’s Tanner Youngberg sandwiching baskets around two free throws by Williams.
Youngberg led the Eagles with 20 points. Isaiah Rahier added 12 points and Anderson Bazile Jr. had 10.
While UWS improves to 6-17 overall and just 4-11 in the UMAC, two of their league wins have been over Bethany Lutheran and Northwestern, two of the top three teams in the UMAC along with St. Scholastica, which only beat UWS by a point a week ago.
“We beat Bethany in OT and were tied up with St. Scholastica with two second to go, so we’ve been competing,” said Polkoski, who played at UWS from 2003-08 and was an assistant coach in 2008-09. “We’d like to have a few more wins, but it’s just about where we’re at in the process of building the program.”
UWS plays at Bethany Lutheran at 3 p.m. Saturday. UWS defeated Bethany Lutheran 85-82 on Jan. 6.
Tanner Youngberg 9-14 1-1 20; Isaiah Rahier 3-11 5-6 12; Anderson Bazile Jr. 3-10 3-4 10; Caleb Hageman 3-8 2-2 8; Brady Bellefeuille 2-6 2-2 6; Colton Simmer 3-3 0-1 6; Mitchell Weege 1-1 0-1 3; Jacob Gervais 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 24-56 13-17 65.
Vid Milenkovic 8-9 4-5 22; Colton Williams 7-14 2-2 20; Shaq Coleman 5-7 4-4 14; Montroy Scott 4-7 0-0 10; Nate Kalien 1-5 0-0 3; Mac Reykdal 1-2 0-0 3; Trevor Paulus 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 26-45 10-11 72.
Northwestern (Minn.) 32 33 — 65
UW-Superior 28 44 — 72
3-point goals—NW 4-14 (Bazile Jr., Weege, Youngberg, Rahier), UWS 10-22 (Williams 4-8; Scott 2-3; Milenkovic 2-3; Reykdal 1-2; Kalien 1-5; Paulus 0-1). Fouled out—UWS-Williams. Rebounds—NW 28 (Youngberg 6), UWS 26 (Coleman 7). Assists—NW 11 (Youngberg 4), UWS 12 (Coleman 5; Vid Milenkovic 5). Total fouls—NW 12, UWS 15. Technical fouls—None. A-286.