The Thunder opened their season by hosting the annual Lee Pfund Classic. The tournament spanned two days and featured Wheaton, Baldwin-Wallace University, DePauw University and UW-River Falls with each team playing two games. The Thunder opened the weekend tournament by defeating DePauw Friday night. The Thunder went on a 20-1 scoring run midway through the first half that put them up 43-15 at the half. DePauw rallied in the second half, outscoring the Thunder 44-37, but it was ultimately too little, too late as the Thunder advanced to the tournament championship game with an 80-59 victory.
The next night, the Thunder met Baldwin-Wallace University in a battle for the tournament crown. The game was a back-and forth affair, as the score was knotted at 36 at the half and neither team was leading by more than six points. The teams entered the last minute of play tied at 72 before senior guard Cam Kuhn hit a jumper to put Baldwin-Wallace up by two with 23 seconds on the clock. However, Thunder senior guard Ricky Samuelson was able to knock down a jump shot while being fouled, tying the score and giving the Thunder a chance to win on the free throw. The free throw attempt was good with nine seconds left, and the Thunder were able to hold on, winning the game 75-74, and winning the tournament in the process.
After their strong start to the season, the Thunder headed to Michigan over the break to take on Calvin College Tuesday night. The Thunder came back down to earth a little, as they were unable to contain Calvin’s offensive onslaught and dropped a high-flying contest 96-86. Six Calvin players scored 10 or more points, and the 96 points allowed represented the most allowed by the Thunder since December 17th of last year, when they allowed 97 against Alma College.
The Thunder then traveled to Franklin, Ind. to take on Franklin College. The game stayed close early on, but the Thunder were able to pull away late in the first half and take a 46-34 lead at the half. The Thunder held onto that lead through the second half, going on to win 83-70.
As Thanksgiving break drew to an end, the Thunder returned home to face the University of Chicago on Wednesday night.
Ricky Samuelson had a memorable performance in the Lee Pfund Classic, as he went 22 of 26 on field goals (84 percent) for 63 total points over the two games. His efforts also earned him tournament MVP and CCIW Player of the Week honors.
Head coach Mike Schauer remarked that he was very pleased with his team’s start to the season, especially in the Lee Pfund Classic. “We’ve played I don’t know how many years, and we’ve done well in it,” he said. “It’s nice to get home games. Basketball’s a sport where home wins are how you butter your bread. You have to win at home. Huge two wins to get our season started.”
The Thunder will get a chance to pick up another home win on Saturday as they host Millikin at 7 p.m.