Senior Thomas Wisecup matched a career-high with 24 points while David Jeffries followed with 17, but it was UW-La Crosse overcoming a slow start to hold on and edge Buena Vista on Saturday night inside of Siebens Fieldhouse, 84-80.
The Beavers jumped out to a 12-0 lead in the first four minutes of the contest before they went cold from the field, missing six straight attempts as UW-La Crosse went on a 12-2 spurt of its own to tie things at 14-14 with 9:00 left in the half. BVU, which had scored at least 50 first-half points in three straight contests, was held to only 33 in this one, as the Eagles led by a 35-33 score at the break.
The teams kept trading baskets in the early part of the second half before UW-L stretched the margin up to 12 with 4:40 to go. Wisecup then scored and was fouled but missed the free-throw attempt to keep the Eagle lead at 10. He then came up with a steal on the ensuing Eagle possession and found himself back at the charity stripe where he converted both to get BVU within eight with just under 4:00 remaining.
It was an 82-76 UW-L lead with 1:47 left before Jeffries came away with a steal and Wisecup again made two more free-throws to get BVU as close as it had been since early in the half. After a Beaver timeout with under a minute to go, sophomore Canyon Hopkins hit a turnaround jumper deep in the paint to make it 82-80. The Beaver defense which helped it make the late-game surge came up with another pivotal stop on the Eagles' next possession as Wisecup came down with the ball with under 15 seconds left. He came to the top of the key and drove down the right side of the lane looking to draw contact, but his shot attempt hit the side of the rim and into the hands of UW-L with under five seconds left.
The Eagles went back down to the other end of the court and made good on both free-throw attempts to make it a two possession game, and BVU's last second shot attempt was off target.
Wisecup matched his career-high in points for the second straight game and was aided by a 9-of-11 effort at the free-throw line. He also came down with five rebounds, dished out four assists and recorded a pair of steals. Jeffries, meanwhile, went 5-of-10 from the field and 6-of-8 at the line while grabbing seven rebounds, dishing out six assists and also coming away with two steals.
BVU shot just under 50 percent from the field but did go 7-of-13 from long range (53.8 percent). The team came into the contest ranked sixth in Division III in three-point percentage at 44.1 percent. The Eagles, now 6-1 on the year, made 10-of-23 from downtown and shot 46 percent from the field overall while also making 14-of-19 free-throw attempts.
La Crosse outrebounded BVU, 43-28, and held a 30-11 advantage on second chance points.
The Beavers dip to 5-2 overall and will now be off for finals week. They will take the court again on Monday, December 18, when the team travels to Elmhurst College for a 7:00 p.m. contest followed by a game at Concordia (Ill.) on December 19 at 7 :00 p.m.