Men’s Basketball: North Central pulls away from Wheaton
BY PAUL JOHNSON For Sun-Times Media January 5, 2013 9:52PM
North Central's Aaron Tiknis (30) locates teammate Derek Raridon (foreground) as Wheaton College pressures on defense. | Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 7, 2013 6:48AM
The preparation for Saturday’s CCIW showdown with Wheaton for North Central College’s men’s basketball team included several points of emphasis.
But one factor, North Central’s No. 1 national ranking in Division III by D3hoops.com, was never mentioned.
Instead, the Cardinals just took the court like it was any other key CCIW game, and they kept that unspoken ranking intact for another week.
The Cardinals erased a three-point halftime deficit and cruised to a 69-55 win over the eighth-ranked Thunder, giving North Central a 13-0 start to the season, the best in program history.
“It’s pretty cool for the fans,” NCC senior Aaron Tiknis said of the ranking. “Coach hasn’t really talked about it. Coach tells us we’re the worst team in the CCIW every time you come to practice. You don’t get any special treatment when you’re No. 1.”
Early on, Wheaton (10-3 overall, 0-2 CCIW) didn’t seem scared to be playing the No. 1 team in the nation.
The Thunder dominated the offensive glass, pulling down nine offensive boards, to build a 28-25 lead at the half. Then they opened the second half with another rebound put-back to push the lead to 30-25.
“Coach (Todd) Raridon, he demands perfection, so nine offensive rebounds is unacceptable for us,” Tiknis said. “The offensive boards, I know which one you’re talking about (the start of the second half), Landon (Gamble) and I looked at each other and we were like, ‘That’s it.’ We hunkered down.”
The Cardinals (13-0, 2-0) exploded after that opening bucket of the second half. They went on an 18-4 run to take a 43-34 lead with 10:04 left. Tiknis and Vince Kmiec each hit three-pointers in the run and Gamble scored six points.
Tiknis kept the hot shooting up as the Cardinals extended the lead, hitting two more three-pointers. The third gave the Cardinals a 53-38 lead with 6:43 left.
“Our defense in the second half really dictated our tempo because we had some open looks,” Raridon said. “Aaron stepped up and hit some shots. It seems like every game, it’s somebody different for us. If we can get some consistency from everybody, it would be really fun to watch.”
Kmiec led the Cardinals with 20 points, Tiknis scored 19 and Gamble added 14 points and 11 rebounds. North Central travels to Carthage Wednesday before hosting another nationally ranked team, Augustana, next Saturday.
“It’s nice to be recognized, but it doesn’t mean anything at this point of the season,” Raridon said. “Our conference is so good that if you’re not playing your A game, it’s going to be a long night for you. But it’s good for our program, our fans and our school.”