ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Cole Rabedeaux hit a leaning jumper as time expired to give the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire a dramatic 77-75 win over Whitworth on Friday night in the opening round of the Lopata Classic, hosted by Washington University.
Rabedeaux kept the Blugolds (4-0) unbeaten and his shot came just after Ben College had tied the game with a dramatic three-pointer for the Pirates (4-1). College led all players with 32 points.
The contest featured wide swings in momentum. Whitworth did not score for the game's first seven minutes and fell behind 11-0 as Rabedeaux scored seven early points. Trailing 19-7, the Pirates used a full-court zone press to force several turnovers by UWEC and Whitworth went on a 23-2 run, including three three-pointers by College. The Bucs led 32-26 at halftime.
The Blugolds started the second half in similar fashion, outscoring Whitworth 8-0 out of the gate to take a 34-32 lead. Already playing without starter Sam Lees, the Pirates saw Jordan Lester leave the game with a leg injury early in the second half.
Whitworth responded. College hit two three-pointers and Isaiah Hernandez added a trey for a quick 9-0 run that gave the Pirates a 48-38 lead. From that point the Blugolds began to wear-down the short-handed Pirates. Hayden Baughman came off the bench to make four three-pointers and Rabedeaux scored on a layup to give UWEC a 59-57 lead. Another Rabedeaux layup gave the Blugolds a 71-66 lead with 32 seconds to go and things looked bleak for the Bucs.
After Garrett Paxton hit a long three-pointer to get Whitworth within two, Spencer Page made a pair of free throws to extend the lead back to four. College was fouled shooting a three-pointer and made all three free throws. Rabedeaux calmly made two free throws with ten seconds left. Whitworth worked a sideline out-of-bounds play for College, who hit a long three-pointer to tie the game with five seconds to go.
After a timeout, UWEC fed the ball up the sideline to Rabedeaux, who pulled up from eight feet and got a shot off just before the buzzer for the game-winner.
College went 10-22 from the field, 7-15 from three-point range. He made 5-6 free throws for his season high point total. He moved into 13th place on Whitworth's all-time scoring list with 1,318 points.
Isaiah Hernandez was the only other Pirate in double figures with 15 points. Paxton scored all eight of his points in the second half.
Whitworth shot a season-low 37% from the field and struggled at the free throw line (11-20, 55%).
Rabedeaux scored 26 points to lead the Blugolds. Page added 15 points and Baughman scored all 12 of his points off the bench after halftime.
UWEC advances to the championship of the Lopata Classic while Whitworth plays in Saturday's consolation game against either host Washington University or Coe College (Iowa).