Wheaton College starts season with back-to-back wins
The Wheaton College men’s basketball season is underway, and the Warriors are looking to improve upon last year’s 12-13 overall record.
The Warriors opened the regular season Nov. 17 at the Lee Pfund Classic, with an 80-59 win over DePauw University. Wheaton dominated the game and held the Tigers to 15 points in the first half. Ricky Samuelson led the Warriors with 34 points, shooting 8-9 from beyond the arc. The 34-point performance set a new career high for Samuelson. His previous career high was 19 points, which he scored last year in a game against North Park.
In the second game of the year, Wheaton faced much stiffer competition and claimed a narrow 75-74 win over Baldwin Wallace University (BWU). The teams were evenly matched in the first half and at the break were tied 36-36. The teams traded the lead back-and-forth throughout the second half, and BWU took the lead late in the game on a jumper by Cam Kuhn. Wheaton got the ball back with 22 seconds left, and Samuelson drove down the court to hit the game-tying shot with nine seconds left. Samuelson was fouled on the play and went to the line, hitting a foul shot to give the Warriors the lead and the win.
After his late-game heroics against BWU, Samuelson was named the MVP of the Lee Pfund Classic. He also was named the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) player of the week. During the Warriors' first two games of the season at the Lee Pfund Classic, he averaged 31 points and had an 87 percent shooting average. He is expected to be one of the top players for Wheaton this season. Last year, Samuelson averaged 12 points per game.
Wheaton went into the third game of the year against Calvin College, hoping to extend its record to 3-0. However, the Knights were too much for the Warriors to handle, and Wheaton fell to its first loss of the year, dropping the game 96-86. Samuelson once again led Wheaton in scoring with 33 points. Aston Francis contributed 27 points and five assists in the loss.
Last season, Wheaton finished seventh out of nine teams in the CCIW with an 8-8 record in conference play. Augustana College is picked to win the conference; the Vikings are defending conference champions. North Central College is picked to come in second place, and Carthage College is predicted to finish in third place. The Warriors were picked to finish in fifth place in the conference this year. The Warriors will open up conference play Dec. 2 when the team faces off against Millikin University.
Samuelson and Francis are expected to be key members of the Warriors team this year. Francis was named to the second-team All-American preseason team. Last year, he was named to the All-Central Region first team and averaged 23 points per game.
Key conference matchups this season include a Jan. 10 game against Augustana, a Jan. 13 game against North Central and a Jan. 24 home game against Augustana. The Warriors regular season will wrap up Feb. 20 against Carroll College, and the CCIW tournament will get underway Feb. 23.