William Penn University
LA CROSSE, Wis. —
The William Penn men’s basketball team overcame its biggest deficit of the year in defeating Viterbo 67-59 in Midwest Collegiate Conference action Wednesday.
The top-ranked Statesmen (27-1, 11-0 MCC) have trailed in several games this year, and have been behind by double digits before, but never had they faced a 20-point margin. Not until Wednesday night, that is.
The Statesmen scored the game’s first point, but the next 23-plus minutes were dominated by the V-Hawks (16-13, 6-5 MCC). Viterbo led 40-25 at halftime and then scored ten of the first 15 points in the second half to go up 50-30 with 16:32 remaining.
William Penn responded with eight straight over the next 2:28 to make the deficit a manageable one.
The V-Hawks were still up by 10 at 54-44 with 7:34 left, but the navy and gold closed out the contest on a tear. The Statesmen, who were limited to a season-low point tally, scored 12 unanswered en route to a 23-5 run that gave them the outright MCC title.
While Saturday’s game against Grand View in Des Moines (3 p.m. tip-off) is meaningless in regards to the league race, a win should keep William Penn No. 1 in NAIA Division II and would tie the school record for wins with 28 (2007-2008 season). It would also mark the first time the Statesmen went undefeated in the MCC regular season.
The Statesmen were held to just 33.3 percent shooting in the first half, but warmed up to 48.1 percent after the break to eventually outshoot the V-Hawks 41.2 percent to 35.1 percent. William Penn held a 36-34 rebounding edge and committed two fewer turnovers than Viterbo (14-16).
Brandon Beasley paced all players with his 11th double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds. Keith Steffeck connected on four three-pointers for 17 points, while James Devlin also reached double figures with 14 points.
Blake Walker, with eight points, and Taylor Stoutner, with six points, were also contributors Wednesday.
Beasley and Steffeck each assisted three times, while Steffeck blocked four shots. Devlin finished with a game-best five steals as well.
“We played awesome defense in the second half,” Statesmen coach John Henry said. “Even down 20 points, we always believed we could win. We have been in tough situations before, so we felt confident we could come back.”
“With being ranked No. 1 and everything else, we have had a lot of distractions this week, so to pull this one out shows a lot of resolve,” Henry added. “I am very proud of our players. This is a very long trip to Wisconsin on a week night, and any time you can win up there is great.”