January 25 2018
The Thunder Men’s Basketball team is coming off of their seventh win in eight games after defeating the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) Scarlet Hawks on Saturday Jan. 20, 2018. The game was a closely contested battle in the first half with the Thunder just edging the Scarlet Hawks with 37 points to 36.
Contrary to the first, the second half was much more of a one-sided affair. The Thunder’s stifling defense turned out to be the difference in the second half. The defense accumulated seven steals and scored 29 points off of turnovers. In particular, they were able to protect the rim with 10 blocks, half of which (five) came from sophomore forward Jay Spencer.
Junior guard Aston Francis said that “when we play with intensity on the defensive end we have been pretty special.” He had a very well-rounded game, raking in 24 points, dishing out seven assists and grabbing six boards.
Junior forward Kobe Eichelberger added 20 points and nine rebounds. He lauded his team’s play this year: “I love watching us play. If I wasn’t on the basketball team, I would definitely pay money to come and watch Wheaton basketball.”
Eichelberger has good reason to be excited about this team. Wheaton has amassed 13 wins this season while just dropping four games. That record is good enough to rank the Thunder second in the CCIW.
The game Wednesday, Jan. 24, was a vital inner-conference bout with Wheaton facing the Augustana Vikings, who were tied for second in the conference with the Thunder. Junior Francis expressed gratitude for the fans this year: “We really appreciate the support we have been getting from the community. The rest of our home games are incredibly important, especially this Wednesday night against Augustana College, so we need everyone to come out and support!” Support will be crucial for this team to reach its goals this year.
The team hopes to win their conference and qualify for the NCAA tournament this spring. Spencer laid out why this goal is so important this year. He said, “When Coach Schauer brought in my recruiting class last year he promised every player that they would make it to the NCAA tournament at the end of the year. We have a little over a month to make that promise come true for the seniors we have on this team. They’ve been great teammates to everyone and we owe a lot of our success to the the sacrifices they have made over their years here.”
While this team has monumental goals on the court, their culture off the court is what fuels their optimistic spirits about this season. All the players that I spoke with stressed how close this team is.
Francis stated the following when asked about the team’s chemistry: “Our practices have been much better and more competitive than last year because we have been a lot more energetic than last year. That has a lot to do with the closeness of our team. We are all very close and hang out outside of practice a lot. The fact that we are so close makes us want to practice and play harder for the guys next to us.”
Spencer said, “Off the court we are like a family of 21 brothers including our manager, Brady.” The team staying together for Thanksgiving and Christmas break was instrumental in their remarkable team chemistry. Kobe Eichelberger said that “the team definitely bonded over Thanksgiving and Christmas break when we felt as if we were the only people on campus. We had some great pranks, pillow talks, and Olive Garden runs.”
Unfortunately, the Thunder men’s basketball team lost a close matchup to Augustana College yesterday night with a final score of 86-84. Augustana is now ranked second in the conference behind Illinois Wesleyan University, and Wheaton moves down from being tied for second into third place in the CCIW.
Wheaton Men’s Basketball’s next game is Saturday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. at Millikin University.
January 25 2018