Shannan Watkins was the spark, but Bailey Diersen was the fire to lead UW-Stout to a 78-68 win over UW-Stevens Point, 78-68, Wednesday on Senior Night as the Blue Devils clinched a home playoff berth.
Diersen would finish with a career-high 33 points, but the Blue Devils (17-7, 7-6 WIAC) trailed early in a turnover-filled first quarter, but Watkins came off the bench to give the Blue Devils an offensive and defensive spark, pulling Stout to within 6-4, then dished off the ball to Emily Jacques to tie the score and then hit a bucket to give Stout an 8-6 lead. The Blue Devils would not trail again the rest of the evening. The Blue Devils forced eight first quarter turnovers, but also turned the ball over four times.
Watkins and Diersen each had two steals in the first quarter and each scored six points before the first break to give Stout a 20-10 lead at the end of the quarter.
Diersen had 13 points by halftime, but Stevens Point (8-16, 4-9 WIAC) cut a 12-point deficit to 34-27 going into the locker room.
The Pointers came out firing to start the second half. Carly Cerrato hit a 3-pointer and Kellan Schmidt cut Stout’s lead to 34-32 Diersen hit three straight buckets in a 6-0 run and Stout raced off to a 16-point, 54-38, to end the period.
But the Pointers, who had a nine-game winning streak over the Blue Devils, were looking to put the Blue Devils’ home playoff chances on ice, and cut the lead to as close as four points, 61-57, with four minutes left in the game.
Diersen made a three-point play to stretch the lead to 64-57 and the Blue Devils outscored the Pointers, 17-9 down the stretch.
The win gave Stout their first WIAC playoff berth since the 2015-16 season, a season the Blue Devils’ present seniors were freshmen, and their first home playoff game since the 2013-14 season.
All three Blue Devil seniors had solid nights. Diersen was 12 of 18 from the field and hit 8 of 10 free throws. Diersen also had six steals . Kyncaide Diedrich was one bucket short of her sixth double-double of the season, scoring eight points and pulling down a game-high 11 rebounds to go along with five steals. Carolyn Feddema had seven rebounds and a blocked shot.
Watkins finished the night with 13 points, three steals, one assist and one blocked shot. and Emily Jacques came off the bench for four points and six rebounds.
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The Pointers, who beat Stout 77-69 in January at Stevens Point, got 24 points from Carly Cerrato. Kellan Schmidt contributed 18 points and Amber Baehman 12.
Stout held a big bulge off the boards, pulling down 39 rebounds to 26 for Stevens Point. Stout shot 43.8 percent for the game (28-64) and hit only 2 of 4 3-pointers. Stout was 20 of 24 from the line.
The Pointers shot 47.4 percent (27-57) from the field, 44.4 percent (8-18) from 3-point range and 6 of 7 from the line. The Pointers finished with 25 turnovers and the Blue Devils 20.
Earlier in the day when the NCAA released their second regional ranking, the Blue Devils were ranked ninth the Central Region.
Stout will close the regular season by traveling to UW-La Crosse on Saturday.
UW-Stevens Point 80, UW-Stout men’s basketball 53
At Stevens Point, UW-Stevens Point held UW-Stout scoreless for a seven-minute stretch in the first half and went to defeat the Blue Devils Wednesday at Quandt Fieldhouse.
The Pointers extended a 17-10 lead to at the 11:07 mark to 35-10 before Stout (6-18, 0-13 WIAC) broke the dry spell with a free throw by Braden Walbeck. Stevens Point (16-7, 8-5 WIAC) held a 51-25 halftime lead. The teams played evenly through the second half with the Pointers holding a 29-28 second half advantage.
The Blue Devils got 15 points from Luke Geiger, all from 3-pointers, and 10 points from Walbeck. Stout was held to 31.5 percent (17-54) for the game. Stout was 8 of 27 from 3-point range and 11 of 15 from the line.
The Pointers were led by Nate Dodge with 18 points and Ethan Bublitz with 10 points. The Pointers shot 50.0 percent (29-58) for the game. The Pointers hit 8 of 22 3-pointers and 14 of 16 free throws. Stevens Point held a 38-32 advantage off the glass.
Stout will conclude the season when they host UW-La Crosse Saturday, Feb. 16 at 3 p.m. for Senior Day.