PLATTEVILLE WINS DIVISION III CHAMPIONSHIP, 69-55 DEFENSE STIFLES MANCHESTER FOR 31-0 PIONEERS - The Buffalo News

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PLATTEVILLE WINS DIVISION III CHAMPIONSHIP, 69-55 DEFENSE STIFLES MANCHESTER FOR 31-0 PIONEERS

It doesn't take F. Lee Bailey and Johnnie Cochran to build a dream defense. Just look at what Bo Ryan keeps coming up with at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.

The Pioneers captured their second Division III basketball crown in five years Saturday night by defusing explosive Manchester (Ind.) College, 69-55, before an estimated crowd of 3,000 at the Buffalo State Sports Arena.

UW-Platteville (31-0) is the first undefeated Division III champion since Potsdam (N.Y) went 32-0 in 1986. Manchester, en route to a 4-24 season when Steve Alford took over the program in December of 1991, finished 31-1.

This was the first championship game meeting of unbeaten teams at the Division III level -- and maybe at any level. NCAA officials said unbeatens never have met in the Division I final, but couldn't immediately determine whether there has been a championship game matchup of unbeatens in Division II.

It was clear from the outset that UW-Platteville was determined to make Manchester play catch-up. The Pioneers scored the game's first basket, a short baseline jumper by Scott Borroughs, and never trailed. A 10-0 surge opened a 16-4 lead after eight minutes and Manchester could draw no closer than eight the rest of the way.

Senior point guard Ernie Peavy led the Pioneers with 17 points, added five assists and was named tournament MVP. Junior forward John Paulsen added 13 points and Borroughs, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, chipped in with 10.

"What a great feeling," said Ryan, a candidate for the vacant post at Wisconsin. "I can't remember a group I've had for four years improving any more than this one. To beat Manchester, a team as explosive as they can be . . . we couldn't play any better than we did tonight."

Manchester off guard Brad Paddock scored 17 points -- all but four of them in the second half. Point guard Brad Knoy had 16.

UW-Platteville, national champs in 1991 and a third-place finisher in '92, dominated all facets of the contest.

Manchester, averaging 88.5 points, shot just 39 percent from the field and was held to a season-low 55 points. Of course, if any team figured to stymie Manchester, the Pioneers were the one. UW-Platteville allowed 60.1 points per game during the regular season, the lowest average in the nation.

Manchester also was limited to five three-point field goals on 15 attempts after shooting a Division III-high 44.7 percent on treys during the regular season.

What's more, UW-Platteville owned the boards, 39-29, thanks to 10 from all-tourney selection Aaron Lancaster, a 6-4 senior forward. Manchester had ranked 12th in the country with a rebounding differential of 9.3 during the regular season.

"They gave us a lot of problems and we didn't handle it," Alford said. "They did a very good job of setting the tone. They were the aggressor. It was their type of game from start to finish."

Peavy scored seven points and forward Mike Uppena came off the bench to add seven more as UW-Platteville started fast and built a 34-24 halftime lead. However, the Pioneers' most notable performance of the half may have come from reserve freshman forward Ben Hoffmann.

Hoffmann's relentless defensive pressure put the clamps on Paddock, Manchester's leading scorer at 18.8 points per game. Paddock converted just 1 of 9 field-goal attempts in the half, including three misfires from three-point range.

"Possession for possession, this is the best defensive team I've ever had," Ryan said.

And he's had quite a few good ones.

In the consolation, game, Rowan College of New Jersey ripped Trinity College of Hartford, Conn., 105-72.

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