ROCK ISLAND, Ill. – The University of Wisconsin-Platteville men's basketball team exchanged the lead 12 times with Capital University before the nail biter came to a close favoring the Crusaders 78-76 in overtime Friday night in the First Round of the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship hosted in Augustana College's Roy J. Carver Center.
In a gym packed with a sea of orange and blue and the Pioneer pep band blaring the UW-Platteville Fight Song, the Pioneers entered their 12th NCAA Division III Tournament in program archives, matched up against the number 24 ranked Capital University.
The Crusaders shared a piece of the Ohio Athletic Conference Title with Mount Union and Marietta and entered their first NCAA Tournament since 2012 with an at large bid. The Pioneers looked to add to their four national titles while Capital is in the hunt for their first.
The Pioneers got off to a slow start trailing 9-3 at the 16:03 mark, but that would be the biggest margin the Crusaders would build through the entire game. The Pioneers went on to exchange the lead twice in the first half with Capital before entering the locker room trailing 26-32 at halfime.
The Pioneers led 69-62 with 2:27 remaining in the second half and Capital scored seven uncontested points to force OT after Carter Voelker's jumper at the buzzer fell just short.
The Pioneers trailed 74-77 in OT before freshman Kyle Tuma had an offensive rebound and put back to bring the score to 76-77. The Pioneer defense provided a stop, but senior Robert Duax was unable to convert on his attempt with :06 remaining. The Pioneers fouled to send the Crusaders' Gavin Wildermuth to the line. Wildermuth made the first and missed the second but Duax's last second shot fell off the mark.
The Pioneers were led in scoring by sophomore Quentin Shields who had 26 points on 56.3 percent (9-of-15) shooting from the field and 57.1 percent (4-of-7) from 3-point range. Shields added six rebounds, and six assists. Duax and junior Carter Voelker were the next leading scorers with 16 and 13 points, respectively.
The Crusaders were led by senior Joey Weingartner who knocked in 25 points and went 52.9 percent (9-of-17) from the field and 46.1 percent (6-of-13) from the 3-point range. Senior Caleb Cox tallied 17 points with 6-of-8 from the field and 12 rebounds.
The Pioneers conclude the 2018-19 season 18-11 overall while the Crusaders improve to 21-7 as they await tomorrow's Second Round game in the Carver Center against the winner of the Augustana and Aurora match up.
The Pioneers conclude their 12th run in the NCAA Division III Tournament with an overall 33-8 record. The Pioneers advanced to the 2019 Tournament with the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference's automatic qualifier after winning the WIAC Tournament title last Saturday. In addition to this season's conference tournament title being the first since 1999, it marked the first back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances for the Pioneers since the 1998 and 1999 seasons.