The difference between a UW-Stout victory and a loss to UW-Platteville on Saturday afternoon was razor thin. Blue Devils coach Jim Lake summarized it succinctly.
“One more board,” Lake said. “One more rebound. One more rebound.”
The pieces were in place for the Blue Devils to finally earn their first WIAC win of the season in Johnson Fieldhouse. Zach Dahl hit a 3-pointer with 57 seconds remaining to give UW-Stout a 70-69 lead. Platteville’s Quentin Shields missed on the other end, forcing the Pioneers to foul three times and send Luke Geiger to the line. He hit both.
Three-point lead, 24 seconds remaining. And somehow, Stout lost by three, 75-72, in regulation.
It started with a miraculous 3-point shot from Platteville’s Carter Voelker to tie the game with 14 seconds left. Shields missed the first shot following the Geiger free throws, but Voelker snagged the rebound at the top of the left key and fired off a shot while taking heavy contact. He was knocked to the floor, but the shot still swished.
Stout appeared to catch a break when Voelker missed the free throw, but not so fast. The Pioneers grabbed another board, this time Clay Gerds, who found an open Kyle Tuma on the right side. He nailed a 3 with 2.1 seconds remaining, all but dooming the Blue Devils to an 0-4 conference record.
”In this league, there’s nothing called for the last three minutes,” Lake said. “It’s the team that wrestles the best that wins, and we don’t wrestle very good.”
”We were preaching in the huddle, one more board,” Dahl said. “We couldn’t get it.”
To put it simply, a win slipped between their fingers.
”You blink and you’re up three, you blink again and you’re tied and you blink again and you’re down 3 and you lose,” Dahl said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to close it out better.”
It’s the second home game in a row the Blue Devils squandered a late lead. Last Saturday, Stout had a nine-point lead on Oshkosh with less than seven minutes left and led by three in the final minute.
“Which means that the coaching staff, we’re not doing a good enough job at being able to work on this,” Lake said.
The Blue Devils led by as much as 11 points in the first half with 3:31 on the clock but saw that lead dwindle down to two by the break.
”We didn’t finish the first half good either,” Lake said. “We’re sieves at the end of the half.”
Stout was up by eight with 5:51 remaining in the second, but a 7-0 run by Platteville put the Pioneers in position to hang with the Blue Devils until the lethal final possessions.
Stout played without leading scorer John Keefe, who was injured in Wednesday’s game against UW-Whitewater. Geiger did well in his absence, leading the team with 19 points, nine higher than his average coming into the game. The game-winning shot was the last of many makes for Voelker on the afternoon. He led all scorers with 26.
Stout plays UW-River Falls on Wednesday.