Benedictine breaks school mark for victories in a season
The Benedictine University men's basketball team became even more special on Saturday.
Beating Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference foe Edgewood 88-54 on senior day at the Rice Center in Lisle, the Eagles set a new program victories mark with 24.
Following only Augustana in national rankings by D3hoops.com, the No. 2 Eagles (24-0, 19-0) moved past the 1990-91 team that won 23 games and was upended by Bo Ryan and Wisconsin-Platteville in the national quarterfinals.
Keith Bunkenburg, 311-215 in his 21st season as Benedictine's coach, was an assistant on that 1990-91 Eagles team.
"We've stayed healthy all season, that's No. 1," he said. "No. 2, I think we have a really unselfish, talented team. And I think a lot of times you have a talented team, sometimes unselfish doesn't come with that and with this group it does. And that makes it special."
Also called the Eagles, Edgewood (3-20, 3-15) had lost 77-57 to Benedictine on Dec. 12. Saturday the outfit from Madison, Wisconsin, led 11-4 through the first five and a half minutes.
Starting with a putback by 6-foot-9 senior Luke Johnson, a Wheaton Academy graduate, Benedictine scored the next 14 points and closed the half on a 37-10 run for a 41-21 halftime lead.
Junior forward Matt Chaltin of Bartlett scored 15 first-half points and finished with a career-high 18 to lead four Benedictine players in double figures. Johnson scored 17, Tim Reamer 13 with a career-best 14 rebounds and Glenbard East's Tahron Harvey added 10 points.
"There's a few games our kids have gotten off to a tough start," Bunkenburg said. "But they've always answered the bell. I don't think you're going to be perfect."
Leading Edgewood by as many as 38 points late in the second half while winning the rebound battle 62-36, holding Edgewood to 27.9 percent shooting and scoring 36 field goals on 25 assists, as a whole Benedictine has been perfect.
Behind the nation's best field goal percentage defense and rebounding margin, Benedictine joins No. 15 Lancaster (Pennsylvania) Bible College (22-0) as the NCAA's last unbeaten teams.
"Honestly, it's a surreal feeling to go down in the history books as one of the best teams in school history," said junior guard Michael Blaszczyk, the Naperville Central product who on Feb. 9 became Benedictine's 28th player to reach 1,000 points in a career.
"But I mean, this is just 24 games in, we're not comfortable with this," Blaszczyk said. "We still have a long ways to go hopefully. We're playing confident, we're playing smart, so we've just got to keep it going."
Recently awarded the No. 1 Central Region slot over Augustana, Benedictine concludes its regular season Feb. 20 at Lakeland before hosting the NACC semifinals and championship on Feb. 26 and 28, respectively.
"The next game's the biggest game, that's one thing Coach harps about," said Johnson, 1 blocked shot away from 100 as a collegiate. "We're going to keep playing it that way. As long as we win the next one we're good. That's all that matters."