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Buckled in for the long haul

The men’s basketball team started off the season strong, winning three of their first four games before going onto a rollercoaster of a season. On Saturday Jan. 14, the Thunder played the Millikin Big Blue (3-12, 1-5 CCIW) at King Arena. Having lost four of their last five games, the Thunder were thirsty for blood. Wheaton came out of the gates strong, going 14-0 in the first four minutes — and the streak only continued. The Thunder ended the night with a 69.4 shooting percentage, compared to Millikin’s 37.7. The Thunder bench made a strong contribution to the victory with 28 points. Sophomore Aston Francis was on fire, scoring a game-high 32 points, including five three-pointers. Sophomore Trevor Gunter scored his career record of 16 points, adding on eight rebounds, three steals and four blocks to the night. The Thunder ended the night in victory with a 93-61 win. This is the most points the Thunder have scored in a regulation game since a 94-67 victory over Olivet College on Nov. 21, 2014.
With the exciting win over Millikin, the Thunder looked good entering Wednesday’s game against North Central (9-7, 3-4 CCIW) at King Arena. Unfortunately, their pattern of flipping between wins and loses reinserted itself. Going into the half down 34-32, the Thunder attempted a comeback. Tied 65-65 at the end of the second half, Wheaton ended up in double overtime. North Central took the win with 86-82 by the end of overtime. Francis led the Thunder with 24 points, four three-pointers, seven rebounds, and six steals. Freshmen Spencer Peterson and Jake Mlagan put up 13 and 12 points respectively. Alas, the offensive effort from the Thunder was not enough to give the Thunder the W.
On Saturday, Jan. 21, after their exciting but fruitless game against North Central, the Thunder went into their game against Carthage College (11-6, 4-4 CCIW) with a record of 7-9. While Wheaton Ballroom Club danced the night away, the men’s basketball team danced to an 85-78 win, bringing their record one step closer to an even 500 at 8-9. The Thunder found themselves in another shooting contest, winning the first half by three points and the second half by four. Francis showed up yet again, putting up 29 points, three three-pointers, and a perfect 1.000 free throw percentage. Junior Ricky Samuelson totaled 20 points and 7 rebounds. Gunter added 11 points to end the night with perfect 1.000 percentages in both field goals and free throws and had eight rebounds. Sophomores Luke Peters and Kobe Eichelberger both had eight points, as well as eight and seven rebounds, respectively.
Sophomore Tyrel Derrick commented about the win, saying, “As far as the win, we just wanted to go out there and play our best game — I don’t know if it was — but that will continue to be our goal each game going forward.”
Coming up in February, the Thunder men’s basketball team will be hosting two special events to honor alumni. On Feb. 11 head coach Mike Schauer and the basketball program are inviting all past Wheaton basketball players to participate in the special game at 11:00 a.m. in King Arena. The Thunder play later that day against North Park University (13-3, 6-2 CCIW). During halftime of the CCIW conference game, the Thunder men’s basketball team will honor alum and three-time All-American Mel Peterson. Head Coach Mike Schauer said Peterson “is the most accomplished player in the history of Wheaton Basketball.” Peterson was selected as Wheaton’s Most Outstanding Player of the 1957 NCAA Men’s Division II Basketball when Wheaton won the division tournament and still holds Wheaton’s all-around record for most points in a game and career points. Peterson was the fourth pick in the eleventh round of the 1960 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons. In 1967, he moved to the American Basketball Association, playing for the Oakland Oaks and Los Angeles Stars before retiring in 1970.
The Thunder will be at North Central College Jan. 28, looking to bring their season away from a loss-heavy record.

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