STEVENS POINT, Wis. — This wasn’t the return to Stevens Point that UW-La Crosse interim men’s basketball coach Kent Dernbach was hoping for.
Dernbach, a former Pointers assistant, and his Eagles were in yet another close WIAC matchup Wednesday night, but they came out on the losing end of a 66-64 decision at Quandt Fieldhouse.
UW-L junior Ben Meinholz, who missed Saturday’s loss to nationally-ranked Oshkosh, returned from an ankle injury to score a game-high 24 points off the bench, and he had two chances to tie or take the lead in the final 10 seconds. His mid-range jumper to tie with 10 seconds left was off, but junior forward Brendon Manning grabbed the offensive rebound and UW-L called timeout to draw up a final shot. Meinholz’s 3-point attempt after the break didn’t fall and Stevens Point (9-5, 3-0 WIAC) secured the rebound to seal it.
The win leaves the Pointers as the lone team with an unbeaten conference record.
“We got a defensive stop to give ourselves a chance,” Dernbach said of the last possessions. “We tried to get Ben where he attack a close-out. They contested it. Brendon Manning had great effort and got us another good chance.”
Manning — who had a team-best 10 rebounds — and Meinholz then ran a two-man game to get the final shot off.
UW-L (9-5, 1-2) got 11 points from junior Tanner Bruchs and 10 from junior Sam Skoyen off the bench. The Eagles struggled again from the free-throw line, going 9-for-18 while Stevens Point went 18 of 24.
“We have to continue to put our guys in positions (in practice) to shoot free throws just like they would in the games,” Dernbach said. “It’s a hard lesson to know if you shoot just 75 percent you’re probably 3-0 in conference play. But at the end of the day, we’ve just got to execute on the foul line, defensively, and on the offensive end.”
Bangor High School graduate Canon O’Hearn, a former Tribune player of the year, scored a collegiate career-high 13 points and played a season-high 35 minutes for Stevens Point. He was one of four Pointers in double figures, and one of three to score 13 points.
Anoka-Ramsey 63, Western 49
The Cavaliers (1-11, 0-1) kept things close, but couldn’t get over the hump in their first conference game of the season.
Casey Moger had a team-best 11 points and tallied six rebounds, while Lexi Schroeder added nine points and seven rebounds.