DWU, USF play for GPAC titleWhen the Dakota Wesleyan University men’s basketball team takes the court in tonight’s Great Plains Athletic Conference tournament championship game, there will be a lot at stake. The Tigers are currently on a 15-game winning streak, the longest active streak in the country. They haven’t lost since Dec. 29.
When the Dakota Wesleyan University men’s basketball team takes the court in tonight’s Great Plains Athletic Conference tournament championship game, there will be a lot at stake.
The Tigers are currently on a 15-game winning streak, the longest active streak in the country. They haven’t lost since Dec. 29.
Dakota Wesleyan, which is 26-5 overall, is also a single win away from breaking the school’s single-season record for wins. The 1978-79 team was the last to win 26 games, and a win today would make this year’s Tigers the winningest in the 92-year history of the program.
DWU also hasn’t lost a home game to a GPAC opponent since last year.
The last time it lost a game at the Corn Palace to a conference for was the 2009 GPAC tournament title game, and it lost to the same team it plays today: the University of Sioux Falls.
Rather than focus on its opponent, however, DWU is focusing on its winning streak and staying loose.
“We want to play well, and I think our focus going into the conference tournament is we’re on a nice streak and we’ve played really well, and we want to continue to play well going down to Branson,” DWU coach John Hemenway said Monday. “That’s been our focus.”
The Tigers, ranked No. 7 in the NAIA, host No. 10 USF at 7 p.m. today for the GPAC tournament title.
Both teams have already locked up bids to the national tournament, which starts March 10. DWU received an automatic bid when it won the league’s regular-season title and USF gets a bid by virtue of making it to the title game.
The Cougars pulled off two dramatic comebacks to advance to the title game. They were down by more than 10 points late in the second half against Northwestern in their quarterfinal game and Thomas Frames hit a 3-pointer with a second on the clock for a 94-93 win.
Saturday against Hastings, Matt Malloy hit a layup to tie the game just before the buzzer sounded to send the game into overtime and USF came away with a 113-108 win.
“They really have a knack for pulling games out late,” Hemenway said. “They never feel like they’re out of it, which is a great thing to have in the last few minutes of a game. If it comes down to a close game, we’re going to have to do that same thing. Just make enough plays to get one more point.”
Malloy leads the Cougars — and the GPAC — with 20 points per game and Frames is at 13.5 points per game.
Four of the Tigers’ starters average double digits, led by Darrin Dorsey with 18.3 points, 5.9 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game.
The last two times the teams have played, the game has come down to the final minutes. The game was tied with 1:08 Dec. 9 in Sioux Falls, but USF was able to pull out a 79-75 win. When the two met Feb. 3 at the Corn Palace, the game was close until the Tigers went on a short run to grab a 13-point lead with 2:05 to play.
That’s something the Tigers are ready for again, and it’s something they’d be ready for no matter who they were playing.
“We’re going to treat it just like every other game, like every other championship,” senior Mitch Bain said. “That’s all it is.”