The Buena Vista men’s basketball team sprinted out to a quick 24-6 lead on Wednesday night at Wartburg College and never looked back, leading by double-digits for the final 33 minutes, en route to the 71-61 victory. The win secured the Beavers a first round bye in next week’s Iowa Conference Tournament.
Senior Wes Nordquist (Adel, Iowa/ADM) was dominant once again, going 6-of-12 from the floor and 4-of-5 at the free-throw line to turn in a team-high 16 points. It was his 80th career double-digit scoring game, giving him an even 400 points scored this season. He also moves within four points of reaching the top-five on the program’s all-time career scoring list (1,540).
Sophomore Cole Darrow (Glenwood, Iowa/Glenwood), who’s second on the team in scoring this season, followed with 12 points. He and Nordquist also led the way on the boards for BVU, hauling in seven and eight rebounds, respectively.
Sophomore Alex Savage (Des Moines, Iowa/Dowling Catholic) was finding the hot-hand all night long, dishing out a career-best seven assists, breaking his previous mark of six which he had reached on two other occasions.
Buena Vista, ranked fifth in the latest NCAA West Regional rankings, came out firing from all spots on the floor, shooting 57 percent in the first half, including 6-of-12 from downtown.
Darrow scored four of the team’s first six points as BVU led 6-0 just three minutes in. After a three-pointer from Wartburg put the Knights on the board and cut the BVU lead in half, Darrow and Savage buried back-to-back long range buckets to push the margin to nine at 12-3 with four minutes gone by.
Wartburg made it 12-6 two minutes later, but that was as close as the Knights would get the rest of the contest, as a pair of layups from Nordquist gave BVU a double-digit lead with 12:50 left, and the Beavers would lead by at least 10 points the rest of the game.
A three-pointer from senior Troy Ticknor (Adel, Iowa/ADM) made it a 23-6 lead midway through the first half, and after Wartburg clawed back to within 12, freshman Nick Clark (Fort Dodge, Iowa/St. Edmond), as well as Savage, drilled long range buckets of their own to make it 29-13.
A bucket from sophomore Brett Heitkamp (Johnston, Iowa/Johnston) with under a minute left in the half, gave BVU its biggest lead of the period (43-24) before a late score from Wartburg made it 43-26 at the break.
The Knights scored eight of the first nine points of the second half and got back within 10, but four straight points from BVU pushed it back to 14. The Beavers maintained that lead until buckets from seniors Kyle Hooks (North Sioux City, S.D./Dakota Valley) and Tyler Pleiss (Omaha, Neb./Ralston) extended it back to 18 at 63-45 with 9:02 left.
After a strong shooting opening half, BVU struggled in the second, making just 35 percent of its attempts, but the team was still able to push the advantage to 20 with seven minutes to play.
Wartburg did close the game on a 17-7 run, but for the Knights, it was too-little-too-late.
The win moves Buena Vista to 18-6 overall and 10-3 in IIAC play. The overall win total is the team’s highest since chalking up 23 victories back in 2008-09. It’s also won at least 10 IIAC games for the 16th time in 17 seasons under Coach VanHaaften.
The Beavers now goes after at least a share of the Iowa Conference regular season title on Saturday afternoon, when they host Coe College at 4:00pm. The Kohawks (15-9, 8-5 IIAC) nearly put BVU alone in first on Wednesday, but they fell in overtime at Luther College, 60-54.
Check out photos of our student-athletes in action in the Beaver sports photo galleries.