STEVENS POINT (UWSP) -- In a meeting of the top-two ranked teams in the country, the UW-Stevens Point men's basketball team went on a run midway through the first half and led by double digits for the final 28:11 of a 74-57 win over UW-Whitewater in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) championship game on Sunday afternoon at Bennett Court at Quandt Fieldhouse.
With the win, UW-Stevens Point (26-1) added its eighth WIAC Tournament title to its 28th regular season championship. Tyler Tillema (Randolph, WI/Randolph) led all scorers with 23 points on 8-for-15 shooting and added 12 rebounds, three assists and four steals in 39 minutes.
The Pointers secured the WIAC's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament, which begins next weekend. UW-Stevens Point will take on Marian University in the first round. UW-Stevens Point has made the NCAA Tournament the last eight seasons and 10 of the last 11.
The Pointers trailed 8-6 early but scored 31 of the next 37 first-half points. UW-Stevens Point shot 55.6 percent in the opening half and held UW-Whitewater to four field goals on 17.4 percent shooting in the opening 20 minutes. UWSP forced 13 turnovers in the first half and turned them into a 15-2 advantage in points off turnovers.
Trailing 8-6 after eight minutes of play, UW-Stevens Point went on a 12-0 run to take a 18-8 lead over the span of two minutes. Tillema sparked the run with a pair of layups and a dunk on the fast break. The Warhawks committed four turnovers over the two-minute stretch.
A minute after the first run, the Pointers scored seven consecutive points to go up by 15, 25-10. UW-Stevens Point held UW-Whitewater scoreless for 3:42. UWSP then kept the Warhawks off the scoreboard in the final 4:35 of the first half and scored the final 12 points of the half.
In the second half, the closest UW-Whitewater got was 17 in the last three minutes of the game. UW-Stevens Point led by 27 on two occasions. The Warhawks shot 43.6 percent from the field and all four of their three-pointers in the game after the break. Quardell Young scored 15 of his team-high 19 points in the second half.
The Pointers cooled off slightly to 42.9 percent in the second half to finish the game at a 50.0 percent clip. Trevor Hass (New London, WI/New London/Augustana (SD)) recorded 13 of his 18 points and shot 4-for-5 from the field in the second half. Hass also finished with five rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals.
Joe Ritchay (Wisconsin Rapids, WI/Lincoln) was the third UW-Stevens Point player to score in double figures, narrowly missing out on a double-double with 13 points and eight rebounds. Tillema, Hass, Ritchay combined to score 54 of UWSP's 74 points in the game.
After 13 first-half turnovers, UW-Whitewater committed just two in the second half. UW-Stevens Point also committed 15 turnovers in the game, leading to 11 points for the Warhawks.
The Pointers shot 21-for-26 (80.8 percent) from the free-throw line in the game, including 17-for-21 in the second half. The 21 made free throws are tied for the second-most in a game for UWSP this season.
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