EagleHerald/Brian Bell Levi Kempka of UWGB-Marinette shoots over a Fox Valley defender during Wednesday's game in Marinette.
EagleHerald/Brian Bell Levi Kempka of UWGB-Marinette shoots over a Fox Valley defender during Wednesday's game in Marinette.

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MARINETTE — The UWGB-Marinette men’s basketball team negated a 37-34 halftime deficit with a 19-0 run to start the second half and held on to beat UW-Oshkosh/Fox Valley 81-66 on Wednesday night. 

“Something that we were really preaching going into this game was don’t come out flat and don’t overlook your opponent,” Bucs’ coach Bryan Wickstrom said. “When the ball went up for tip-off we were just flat and stayed flat the entire first half. Couldn’t get anything going offensively and defensively we looked a step behind and that’s not us as a team.”

Despite not playing its best ball, Marinette (5-2 overall, 4-1 conference) was able to stick around in a first half that had 12 lead changes with the biggest lead going to Fox Valley twice at 5 points.

The Bucs trailed 11-6 five minutes into the game before Jakob Voss swished an open 3-pointer and Preston Lauscher made two free throws after being fouled underneath the hoop to tie the game at 11. 

Again Marinette was trailing by 5, this time 33-28 with just under two minutes to play in the half. Jordan Janofski made one of two free throws, Levi Kempka drilled a triple and Janofski made an inside basket grab a 34-33 lead with 1:20 remaining. 

The half ended with the Cyclones’ Michael Griep scoring a bucket and Mitch Fischer making two free throws for a 37-34 Fox Valley halftime advantage. 

Something switched in the Bucs’ heads at halftime because Marinette came out like a brand new team. 

Connor Nelson canned a pull-up three to start the half, Lauscher made a bucket and Voss made a layup to take a 41-37 lead two minutes into the second half. 

After point guard Connor Heise picked up his third personal foul with 18 minutes remaining in the game and was forced to the bench, Marinette continued its run to start the half with a 3-point play from Lauscher and Kempka swishing two free throws to build the lead to 46-37.

Thing started to get a little chippy shortly after. Nelson was on a fastbreak and went up for a layup but was shoved in the back by Fox Valley’s Brock Howitt, sending him into the wall behind the hoop. After a small discussion from the referees, Howitt was ejected from the game and assessed a technical foul on top of the shooting foul on Nelson. 

Nelson made 3-4 free throw attempts after everything was worked out and Marinette led 49-37. The Bucs defense forced another Fox Valley turnover which led to a Voss reverse layup and Willemsen capped off the run with a steal and a fastbreak dunk to hike the lead up to 53-37 with 15 minutes remaining. 

“We always say the first five minutes of the second half is going to tell you who is going to win,” Wickstrom said. “We came out moving. They played with some great energy and intensity, but they got satisfied and we started to flatline again. We have to figure out a way to be more consistent with our energy and our effort. We have enough talent to do some great things this year but if our energy and intensity isn’t there we’re going to struggle. I’m thankful for that five-minute outburst otherwise we would have been in some trouble.”

Fox Valley tried to make its way back into the game and got within six at 65-59, but Marinette made 5-6 foul shots down the stretch and come away with a Wisconsin Collegiate Conference victory.

Five Bucs scored in double figures, led by Lauscher with 17 points and six rebounds; Kempka had 15 points and a team-high nine rebounds; Heise had 13 points and Voss and Willemsen had 11 each. 

Griep led Fox Valley with 18 points and Daniel Hiroskey had 17.

Marinette plays host to UW-Stevens Point/Wausau on Saturday.