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SMALL COLLEGES: Unbeaten Wheaton men’s basketball ahead of curve

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Updated: December 19, 2012 6:57PM

After losing four starters, including first-team All-American Tim McCrary, from an NCAA Division III Sweet 16 team, Wheaton men’s basketball coach Mike Schauer wasn’t quite sure what this season would bring.

What it has brought has been pretty good. The Thunder moved into the rankings at No. 22 after victories over Hope and Calvin last weekend in the annual CCIW-MIAA Classic raised Wheaton’s record to 6-0.

“I knew I had enough talent to be very good, but our talent is so inexperienced,” Schauer said. “So I’m pleased that we’re ahead of the curve. I did not anticipate us playing this well this quickly.”

One big reason is point guard Tyler Peters, who has stepped up into the team-leader role. Peters, a 6-4 junior, is averaging 20 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists and impresses Schauer with his versatility.

“Tyler is just such an extraordinarily tough matchup because he’s almost a 6-5 point guard,” Schauer said. “He handles the ball for us, and yet he’s also our best post scorer. So he’s a tough kid to defend. If you put a forward on him, he goes by that guy. If you try to put a guard on him, he can post that kid up. He’s just a very difficult matchup.

“He’s also very long, and he’s a good defensive player because of us. I think he’s much more comfortable as our best player. Some kids struggle with being a role player. Tyler’s blossomed in part because he’s now being allowed to fulfill the role that he’s always wanted, which is to be our most complete and best player.”

Schauer also points to 6-6 sophomore Peter Smith’s defense.

“He’s a wing, but he can guard almost any position, except for the truly quick point guard or the 6-8 muscular guy,” Schauer said.

And the defense, he said, has been a key to the fast start.

“We’re so much better defensively than I would ever have anticipated with a team this young,” Schauer said.

St. Xavier wrap-up

The NAIA football playoffs ended for defending champion St. Xavier with a 47-19 loss Saturday to Morningside in Sioux City, Iowa, but the Cougars racked up some individual honors in the wake of their 11-2 season.

Linebacker Mike Bushnell and receiver Shane Zachary were named to the Capital One Academic All-America College Division first team, and defensive lineman Greg Hayward was named to the second team.

The teams, selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America, honor players from NAIA, Canadian and two-year institutions.

Leaving Concordia

Lonnie Pries has stepped down as football coach at Concordia to pursue other opportunities.

Pries coached Concordia to a 10-0 regular season and Northern Athletics Conference championship before a first-round loss to Bethel in the NCAA Division III playoffs.

He took over the Cougars after back-to-back winless seasons and turned the program around, going 42-29 with two conference titles in his seven years.

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