In a game often dominated by giants, the smallest guy on the floor ended up being the difference. 5-8 Brandon Rieg scored the last five points of the game and contributed a key steal as Hamline's men's team opened its season with a dramatic season-opening 64-61 win over Northwestern (MN) Tuesday night at Hutton Arena.
Before the game, the Pipers honored the winningest coach in college men's basketball, Don Meyer, who recorded the first 37 of his 923 career triumphs while calling Hutton his home base. Hamline then went out and won the game the way many of Meyer's teams did ... with great fundamentals.
In the first half, HU had just two turnovers as they jumped to a 33-27 lead. The Pipers stretched the margin to 10 midway in the second half when the Eagles showed why they are favored to return to the NCAA tournament this year as the champs of the UMAC. Down 58-50 with 4:10 to go, Northwestern went on a 11-1 tear to take the lead at 61-59 with 1:13.
That's when the Little Big Man -- Rieg -- really went to work. He buried a three-pointer with 1:02 left to give Hamline a 62-61. Northwestern came down and missed a shot. Who grabbed the rebound? The 5-8 guard, of course. But the Pipers missed their try and the Eagles had another shot at it. this time, there was jam up near the free throw line and Rieg came away with the ball. Northwestern had no choice but to foul him. Rieg, who ended the night with just seven points, drained both shots to finish off the scoring.
Mike Campbell led all scorers with 14 for HU. He also had a team high seven rebounds. Victor Easter hit a couple of timely treys and came in with 10 points as the Pipers turned the tables on a team that nudged them, 62-61, a year ago.
The Pipers now have a week to savor this win. They will play at UW-Eau Claire next Tuesday night.
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