Warhawks roll into Final Four
WHITEWATER The formula sounds simple, but even the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s math whizzes won’t solve it if the UW-Whitewater men’s basketball team is as sharp against MIT in the NCAA Division III Tournament semifinals as it was against Virginia Wesleyan in the Elite Eight on Saturday.
Outside shooting plus Chris Davis’ inside dominance plus outstanding defense equals Warhawks’ victory.
The math was both easy and correct on Saturday, as Whitewater cracked Wesleyan’s defense early with a barrage of three-pointers, fed Davis in the post after that and played exceptional defense—the Warhawks’ calling card—all game long in a 76-62 blowout at Kachel Gym.
Davis was a monster with 33 points and 11 rebounds, while sophomore guard Cody Odegaard drained five three-pointers in just over 10 minutes to open the game, scoring all 17 of his points in the first half.
Whitewater (27-4) heads to Salem, Va., to make its first Final Four appearance since 1989, when it captured its second national title. The Warhawks will face MIT in a semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday, following the 5 p.m. semifinal between Cabrini and Illinois Wesleyan.
“It’s exciting, because we’re healthy, we’re playing well, we have a great group of guys,” said Whitewater coach Pat Miller, making his first Final Four appearance as the Warhawks’ head coach in his 11th season. “It’s been a great journey, regardless of how it (ends). I love these guys, and I’m excited that we have another week to go do battle.”
It’s doubtful that other teams will be so excited to do battle against Davis, Whitewater’s rugged senior forward who earned WIAC Player of the Year honors.
After scoring 10 points in the first half on Saturday, Davis exploded for 23 in the second. His baskets came on a combination of deft post entry passes and inside brute, though he stepped out and swished a three-pointer from the top of the key with 16 minutes 52 seconds left in the game to give Whitewater its biggest lead yet at 45-29.
Because of the Warhawks’ hot shooting from the outside, Davis—who’s averaging 22.3 points per game for the season and 23.3 during the NCAA Tournament—saw something he’s rarely faced all season: one-on-one defense.
“Cody, he hit some big threes that opened it up,” said Davis, wearing a net proudly around his neck after the game. “Then they definitely were playing one-on-one. I haven’t seen that all year long, so it was definitely time to take over.”
Odegaard took over from the opening tip, hitting from the left wing off a kick-out pass, swishing another triple after curling off a screen and scoring on a drive to the basket as Whitewater seized an early 15-3 lead.
After three more Odegaard trifectas, the lead was 26-13. The Marlins got within 32-24 at one point and trailed 36-26 at halftime, but the Warhawks opened the second half on a 9-3 run—capped by Davis’ three—and Wesleyan never got closer than 11 after that.
“It wasn’t one of our better efforts, and they had a lot to do with it,” said Wesleyan coach Dave Macedo, whose team was led by Chris Teasley’s 15 points. “They deserve it, and I’m sure they’ll do well in Salem.”
Especially if the Warhawks, who held Wesleyan (27-4) to 38 percent shooting in the second half, defend as well as they have been.
As important as his early shooting was, Odegaard was even more critical on the defensive head, where he was primarily responsible for holding Marlins’ leading scorer D.J. Woodmore to 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting. Woodmore didn’t make his first field goal until 1:19 remained in the first half.
“Obviously, Woodmore is a great player, a volume shooter, and we knew he could get going at any point,” Miller said. “Cody just didn’t allow him to get into any type of a rhythm. The shots he did hit were tough, contested shots.”
Said Odegaard: “I think my defense might have actually fed my offense.”
And you don’t have to attend MIT to figure out how successful that approach can be.
UW-WHITEWATER 76, VIRGINIA WESLEYAN 62
Virginia Wesleyan (62)—Vaughn, 5-8 0-1 10; Woodmore, 4-12 2-3 11; Ford, 1-2 0-0 2; Lyons, 1-2 0-0 3; Grew, 2-4 3-4 7; Burns, 0-4 0-0 0; Teasley, 6-16 3-6 15; Davis, 6-9 2-6 14; Brown, 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 25-58 10-20 62.
UW-Whitewater (76)—Merg, 2-3 5-8 10; Young, 0-5 0-0 0; Odegaard, 6-9 0-0 17; glenn, 0-0 2-2 2; Knoble, 3-3 0-1 6; Bryson, 0-5 2-2 2; Davis, 14-22 4-4 33; Edmunds, 2-3 2-4 6; Burns, 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 27-51 15-21 76.
Virginia Wesleyan 26 36—62
UW-Whitewater 36 40—76
Three-point goals—Virginia Wesleyan 2-10 (Woodmore 1-5, Lyons 1-1, Crew 0-1, Burns 0-1, Teasley 0-2), Whitewater 7-13 (Merg 1-1, Odegaard 5-7, Davis 1-4, Burns 0-1). Rebounds—Virginia Wesleyan 35 (Vaughn 12), Whitewater 34 (Davis 11).