Wheaton basketball team hard at work during Christmas break
While most Wheaton College students were enjoying Christmas vacation, the men’s basketball team was hard at work, playing three games during the break.
On Dec. 16, the Thunder hosted Alma College and dropped a narrow game, falling 87-82. Early on in the game, things were tight, five minutes into the game Wheaton held a 12-11 lead. But then the Scots went on a 15-3 run to take control and at halftime, the Thunder trailed 52-41. Four minutes into the second half, Alma extended its lead to 60-46. Then Wheaton mounted a comeback, and with 13 minutes left in the game cut the lead to four points.
Despite the comeback attempt, Alma proved too strong for the Thunder and went on to claim the win. Aston Francis led the Thunder with 28-points in the loss. He also recorded four assists and two steals and was on the court for 39 minutes. Ricky Samuelson also turned in a solid performance for the Thunder, with 19 points and three assists.
Following the loss to Alma, the Thunder headed west for a two-game road trip. First up for the Thunder was a matchup against No. 7 ranked Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. The Thunder bounced back from the loss to Alma College and knocked off the Pirates by a score of 92-84. The Thunder handed the Pirates its first loss against a nonconference opponent in 30 games. The win also marked the first time the Thunder have defeated a top-25 opponent since February.
In the game, Francis once again led the way for the Thunder on offense with 21 points and nine assists. Spencer Peterson contributed 19 points, and Samuelson scored 13 points for the Thunder.
Wheaton wrapped up 2017 on Dec. 21, when it took on George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon. The Thunder claimed its second-straight win with an 86-81 victory over the Bruins. The Thunder controlled much of the game and turned in its best performance from the field this season, shooting 66 percent from the floor. In the first half, the Thunder shot an impressive 69 percent from the field and took a 46-33 lead into the locker room at the break. George Fox fought back in the second half and outscored the Thunder 48-40 in the half, but it wasn’t enough and Wheaton claimed its eighth win of the season.
Kobe Eichelberger led the Thunder scoring attack with 28 points. Samuelson scored 23 points and pulled down six rebounds for Wheaton.
The Thunder will return to action in early January as the team faces off against a number of CCIW conference foes. Currently, Wheaton sits in second place in the CCIW with an overall record of 9-3 and a conference record of 3-1.
Some key conference matchups in the second half of the season include a Jan. 10 game against Augustana College, which is currently in third place in the conference. The Vikings have an overall record of 9-1, with a 2-0 record in conference play. Augustana is also on a five-game win streak. On Feb. 5, the Thunder will play another key conference game, taking on Illinois Wesleyan University, which is in first place in the CCIW with a 10-3 overall record and a 3-1 conference record.