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SMALL COLLEGES: Wheaton, North Central basketball set for semifinal tussle

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Updated: March 22, 2013 10:43AM

With the long haul of the regular season transitioning to CCIW tournament play this weekend, Wheaton men’s basketball coach Mike Schauer has one first-things-first worry.

“My biggest concern isn’t the one and done, it’s how good North Central is,” Schauer said. “They are just so talented and so good.”

The Cardinals (22-3, 11-3), No. 5 in the latest poll, showed just how good Saturday in Naperville when they handed No. 3 Illinois Wesleyan (21-4, 13-1) its first league loss in an 87-83 overtime thriller.

With that, North Central wrapped up the No. 2 seed in the four-team CCIW tournament Friday and Saturday in Bloomington, Ill. The Cardinals will take on the third seed, No. 20 Wheaton (20-5, 10-4), while top-seeded Wesleyan plays fourth-seeded Augustana (18-7, 8-6) in the Friday openers.

“Whoever wins two games this weekend will have earned it,” Schauer said. “They are four very, very good teams.”

The tournament winner gets an automatic bid in the NCAA Division III tournament. The top three all are in good shape for possible at-large bids should they not get the automatic.

Wheaton split with North Central in the regular season.

“The biggest thing for us against North Central is we have to rebound the ball,” Schauer said. “They are a very physical team and rebound the ball exceptionally well. We have to make some shots. They are so good on the interior defensively that we’re going to make some perimeter shots. One of the reasons I think we’re a team that has beaten them and could beat them again is we have some pretty elite perimeter shooters.”

Wheaton has shot .392 from behind the arc, with Michael Kvam hitting 60 of 139 (.432). Others haven’t shot as many treys, but there are threats throughout the lineup with Brayden Teuscher (23-for-46, .500), Peter Smith (24-for-63, .381), Tyler Peters (14-for-37, .378) and Michael Berg (15-for-36, .417).

Defensively, the Thunder has to look inside.

“We have to find a way to stop them getting to the basket,” Schauer said. “[Landon] Gamble, [Aaron] Tiknis and [Derek] Raridon, to my mind, are the best three forwards in the country. I don’t know that anybody has a 3-4-5 as good as they do. We have to keep them away from the basket, which is very, very difficult.”

Aurora in final

The Northern Athletics Conference is down to its final two, with Aurora gearing up for a trip to Sheboygan, Wis., for a Saturday game against Lakeland. The winner gets the NAC’s automatic bid to the D-III tournament.

Aurora finished first in the South Division in the regular season, then advanced to the NAC final with a 71-67 victory over visiting Thornton on Tuesday. Esteban Vega scored 25 points in the conference semifinal, while Scott Laskowski had 14 points and 10 rebounds.

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