CHICAGO, Ill. – The Illinois Tech men's basketball team (6-5) faced its toughest non-conference test of the season on Saturday night, hosting Wheaton College and NCAA Division III's leading scorer; Aston Francis. Behind a total team effort, the Scarlet Hawks overcame a double-digit deficit to halt the Thunder offense in the second half and win 75-72. The loss sent Wheaton, which received 11 votes in the latest d3hoops.com poll, to 8-4 on the season.
How it Happened
- Francis, a Second Team Preseason All-American who came into the contest averaging over 31 points a game, lived up to his billing early on. He scored 22 of Wheaton's 41 points in the first half, using only 12 shots to tally those numbers.
- The Wheaton defense held the Scarlet Hawks scoreless until a Milos Dugalic three-pointer at the 16:37 mark, as Tech never led in the first half.
- Wheaton went up double-digits for the first time on a Spencer Peterson lay-up with 7:01 left, going up 29-17. This would match the Thunder's largest lead of the night, as the Scarlet Hawks fought back to cut the halftime deficit down to seven (41-34). Anthony Mosley Jr., Jake Digiorgio, and Max Hisatake were all instrumental in cutting the deficit.
- The second half would prove to be different, with Otis Reale sparking Tech's big run. Coming off the bench, the freshman guard six straight points and followed his personal run up with an assist after hauling in a rebound to bring the Scarlet Hawks to within three, 54-51, with 12:02 remaining.
- One minute later, the Scarlet Hawks would tie the game for the first time, as Parker Joncus found Calvin Schmitz for a three-pointer. Digiorgio then gave Tech its first lead of the ballgame with 10:31 remaining.
- While the Thunder was able to remain close with some timely baskets and well-used timeouts, the Scarlet Hawks were relentless on offense down the stretch. With several players helping to maintain a slim lead as time ticked on, Hisatake made one of the plays of the game with 3:10 remaining, corralling an offensive rebound and converting an and-one play to put the Scarlet Hawks up 66-60.
- Wheaton would eventually pull back to within three with 1:22 left to play, but Tech was able to prolong the Thunder's charge thanks to a three-pointer from Ahmad Muhammad and two more Hisatake free throws.
- After Wheaton was able to get some stops, Francis split a pair of foul shots with 32 seconds left to bring the Thunder within two at 71-69. Tech's own Preseason All-American, Mosley Jr., responded on the other end by sinking both of his foul shots, bring the score back to a two-possession affair with 22 seconds to play.
- Wheaton's Francis showed a great shot fake on the other end, but missed from distance as Digiorgio pulled down the rebound and hit two foul shots to ice the victory. A late Francis three-pointer came with two seconds to play, as the Scarlet Hawks were able to run off the final seconds thereafter.
Scarlet Hawk Standouts
- Mosley Jr. continued his stretch of strong play, scoring a team-high 21 points, dishing nine assists, pulling down five rebounds, and tallying four steals. He was 6-of-15 from the field and 9-of-11 from the free throw line.
- The front court of Digiorgio (14 points, 13 rebounds) and Hisatake (13 points, five rebounds) played big and under control.
- Reale was a sparkplug for the Scarlet Hawks, scoring eight points in just eight minutes of action on 4-of-6 shooting. He also had two rebounds and an assist.
Stats to Know
- Tech committed just five turnovers, a season-low and lowest single-game total of the Todd Kelly era (since 2014-15).
- While Wheaton outshot Tech 43.9% to 39.1%, Tech attempted 12 more shots from the field and converted 82.4% of its free throws compared to 60.9% for the Thunder.
- Tech held Francis in check after his hot start, as he was just 4-of-12 from the field in the second half for 12 points.
- The loss avenged last season's defeat to the Thunder, as Tech fell in Wheaton 76-55 on January 20, 2018.
- The Scarlet Hawks are back in action on Thursday at Wisconsin Lutheran for a 7:00 p.m. matchup, resuming Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference play.