Upper Iowa erased a 20-point second half deficit and cut the Wayne State lead to just three with 2:20 to play, but the Wildcats held off the furious Peacock comeback and made key free throws down the stretch to hang on for a 69-61 NSIC South Division men’s basketball road victory at Upper Iowa Friday evening. With the win, WSC is now 16-7 and, coupled with a Sioux Falls loss at Concordia-St. Paul, tied for first in the NSIC South with an 11-6 league mark. Upper Iowa is now 13-10 and 10-7 in league games.
Upper Iowa opened the game with back-to-back baskets for an early 5-0 lead. But WSC then held the Peacocks to just two baskets over the next 12 ½ minutes as UIU made just 2 of their next 27 shots as the Wildcats built a pair of 20 point leads.
With the score tied at 8-8 at the 13:23 mark of the first half, senior Nick Ferrarini scored five straight points on a jumper and three-point play for a 13-8 lead.
The ‘Cats used a 9-0 run over a nearly six minute stretch to turn a 13-10 lead into a 22-10 lead on a Justin Eagins jumper with 6:23 to go before halftime.
A 10-0 Wildcat scoring run followed shortly thereafter as WSC built a 32-12 lead after an Eagins trey with 2:33 left before halftime and closed the first half with a 36-18 lead.
Wayne State ended the first half shooting 50 percent on 14 of 28 while Upper Iowa made just 6 of 32 shots on their home court in the first half for 18.8 percent.
The Wildcats maintained a double-digit advantage for a good share of the second half until a furious comeback by the Peacocks in the final seven minutes.
WSC was in front 57-40 with 10:52 to play, but the Peacocks held WSC scoreless for just under five minutes and scored eight straight points to close within nine at 57-48 at the 6:59 mark.
The ‘Cats went back in front 12 at 62-50 on a pair of Janssen free throws with 4:33 remaining.
Upper Iowa held WSC without a basket for the next 5:11 and the Peacocks closed within three at 63-60 with 2:20 left. The Peacocks had a chance to tie the game, but missed a 3-pointer.
A running jumper by Ferrarini with 44 seconds to play gave the ‘Cats a 65-60 lead. Following an Upper Iowa free throw that made the score 65-61, WSC was fouled in the final 21 seconds with Eagins and Sean Stokes each sinking a pair of free throws to allow Wayne State to hang on for the victory.
Janssen and Ferrarini each scored 17 points for Wayne State while Eagins and Nate Mohr each had 11.
Wayne State made 23 of 52 shots for 44 percent, but was just 3 of 17 behind the arc. The ‘Cats connected on 20 of 26 free throws in the win.
Jake Hilmer poured in a game-high 25 points for Upper Iowa. Lucas Duax had 14 with Nick Reid scoring 12.
Upper Iowa shot 33 percent from the field on 22 of 66 shots. The Peacocks were 6 for 27 from the 3-point line and 11 for 15 at the free throw line.
WSC held a 42-35 edge in rebounding thanks to nine boards by Janssen and eight from Cody McCullough.
Wayne State concludes their NSIC road trip Saturday afternoon with a 3:30 p.m. contest at Winona State.
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