The best thing Wheaton College coach Mike Schauer did Saturday night was put Peter Smith in a position where the junior forward absolutely had to shoot the basketball.
Smith hit a pair of 3-pointers as part of a key 9-point run midway through the second half that gave the Thunder the lead for good against rival North Central College. The Thunder (12-6, 5-2) won 59-46 in Wheaton to pull into a four-way tie in the CCIW.
"We were trying to get Peter some shots because we felt like he was open," Schauer said. "He can sometimes be a kid that floats through the game a little bit. We needed him to be a little more aggressive so we actually ran sets to him to make him shoot a shot, and it was great to see him hit a couple."
North Central trailed most of the first half, but the Cardinals took a 34-31 lead on a Vince Kmiec basket with 13:27 to play in the second. A Brayden Teuscher basket tied the game at 34, then Smith hit those two big 3-pointers and the Thunder was gone in a flash.
"I really thought that was the point that we got a little separation because at the same time the way they play it's so hard to score but if you can 6-, 8-, 9-point lead late in the game, they're going to have a hard time making that up because they take so much time every possession," Schauer said.
Smith took just three shots in the game, making all three to finish with 8 points.
"You'd be stunned how often I have to -- he took 3 shots tonight -- how often I have to push him to take shots," Schauer said. "He doesn't play that way. He just doesn't think 'score' at the same level that a Brayden or a Tyler (Peters) or guys that just think that way. He just doesn't. I've got to kind of remind him that he's a good player. He's welcome to try to score too."
Wheaton got most of its scoring from Peters, who had 20 points.
Landon Gamble and Brandon Williams each scored 12 points for the Cardinals (9-9, 2-5). Kmiec added 11 points.
"Anytime you beat that team, who is as well-coached as they are, it's a great win, because they're just not a fun team to play," Schauer said of North Central. "They're going to grind the game out, they're going to guard every possession, they don't beat themselves, they don't take bad shots, they don't give you easy shots. It's a game that as a coach it just terrifies you because you're not going to get a lot of separation. It's a tough team to get away from."
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