Tigers down Briar Cliff, move into first in GPAC

Pressure doesn't seem to affect the Dakota Wesleyan University men's basketball team. At least not in a bad way. Wednesday night, for the second time in three games, the Tigers were playing in a game with plenty at stake both in the conference an...

Matt Bunke/Republic Dakota Wesleyan's Ike Muoneke goes up to attempt a layup over Briar Cliff's James Larson during the first half of Wednesday's game at the Corn Palace.

Pressure doesn't seem to affect the Dakota Wesleyan University men's basketball team.

At least not in a bad way.

Wednesday night, for the second time in three games, the Tigers were playing in a game with plenty at stake both in the conference and for the postseason.

And Wednesday night, for the second time in three games, Dakota Wesleyan came out on top in those high-pressure situations.

The No. 22 Tigers downed No. 13 Briar Cliff 90-68 Wednesday night at the Corn Palace to climb to 8-2 in the GPAC and jump into a three-way tie for first place in the conference with Morningside and Concordia.


"It feels good," DWU senior Scott Nelson said of being No. 1 in the GPAC. "It feels great. We were ranked to win the conference at the beginning (of the season), so we're getting back on track."

It looked like it was going to be a bad night for the Tigers to start. Chase Vander Feen came out and drained back-to-back threes to start the game and put DWU down 6-0 early. But Mitch Bain converted a three-point play, Scott Nelson and Brady Wiebe scored, then Ike Muoneke hit a three, a layup and blocked a shot that resulted in a basket by Mike Long for a 14-8 lead with less than four minutes gone from the game.

"We needed to get off to a good start," DWU coach John Hemenway said. "Briar Cliff has a good team; they're good in a lot of different areas. We had not gotten off to really good starts, so that was imperative (Wednesday), and fortunately we did."

Things looked like they were going to get bad again with less than eight minutes gone from the game when Colby Fitzgerald, who leads the team and is second in the conference in scoring, went down with an apparent knee injury. He tried to re-enter the game a few minutes later, but went down again and had to be helped off the court.

Hemenway said Fitzgerald will have an MRI done on the knee today and his status for the rest of the season will be decided after that.

Briar Cliff went on a 10-3 run after Fitzgerald left the game to cut the deficit to two, 25-23, but DWU answered with a 12-2 run of its own, capped by a four-point play by Chase Walder. Walder hit another three several minutes later, and Bain ended the half with a steal and a layup for a 46-32 halftime lead for DWU.

"The biggest thing was our pressure on defense," Muoneke said. "Brady (Wiebe), Colby, Scott, Mitch -- they're all good scorers. We have to be confident and execute on defense, and that's how we win."

The Chargers weren't ready to roll over and die in the second half, and after a 6-0 run by the Tigers, Briar Cliff went on a 19-10 run to cut what was once a 20-point gap to 11, 64-53.


But Walder hit his third three of the game, Wiebe converted a three-point play, Nelson had a huge dunk and Jordan Long had an easy layup after a DWU steal to push the lead right back out to 20, 75-55.

The Chargers hit four threes in the last 6:30 of the game, but it wasn't enough as the Tigers held on for the 22-point win.

"I'm really proud of our effort," Hemenway said. "We came out and we played well. Colby goes down and we were a man down, but a lot of different guys stepped up and it was a great effort."

Wiebe, the reigning GPAC player of the week, led four Tigers in double digits with 21 points. Bain finished with 19 and a team-high eight assists, Nelson had 16 and Walder finished with 10.

Vander Feen, who is second in the GPAC in threes made with 56, hit six threes and scored 20 points for the Chargers, who fell to 16-5 overall and 8-3 -- second place -- in the GPAC. Kyle Semprini, who leads the GPAC in threes made, was held scoreless. Brett Ratcliff had 15 points and Michael Dicks and Morris Smeader each chipped in with 10 points for the Chargers.

Briar Cliff shot just 40 percent from the field and just under 44 percent from the line. DWU shot 50 percent from the field and 81 percent from the line.

The Tigers try to defend their place at the top of the conference Sunday when they host Hastings College at 4 p.m.




Briar Cliff (16-5, 8-3)

Matt Geelan 2-5 1-2 5; Michael Dickes 3-7 4-5 10; Brett Ratcliff 6-11 2-5 15; Chase Vander Feen 7-10 0-1 20; Kyle Semprini 0-8 0-0 0; Brent Miller 0-1 0-0 0; Derek Mechaelsen 3-5 0-3 6; James Larson 1-3 0-0 2; Kelvin Adams 0-0 0-0 0; Casey Morgan 0-1 0-0 0; Nathan Young 0-1 0-0 0; Morris Smeader 4-7 0-0 10; Drew Hanson 0-6 0-0 0. Totals 26-65 7-16 68.

Dakota Wesleyan (17-5, 8-2)

Brady Wiebe 6-11 9-10 21; Ike Muoneke 4-13 0-0 9; Scott Nelson 7-9 1-1 16; Mitch Bain 7-18 3-3 19; Colby Fitzgerald 1-2 0-0 2; Rocky Nelson 0-1 0-0 0; Mark Mingo 0-0 0-0 0; Chase Walder 3-7 1-2 10; Jordan Long 1-1 1-2 3; Jordan Miller 1-1 1-1 3; Mike Long 3-3 1-2 7. Totals 33-66 17-21 90.

Halftime score: BC 32, DWU 46. Three-point goals: BC 9-28 (Vander Feen 6-7), DWU 7-18 (Walder 3-7). Rebounds: BC 40 (Dickes 7), DWU 39 (Muoneke 9). Turnovers: BC 14, DWU 10. Assists: BC 18 (Smeader, Ratcliff 4), DWU 21 (Bain 8). Steals: BC 4 (Ratcliff 2), DWU 12 (Walder, Bain 3). Blocks: BC 2, DWU 4 (Wiebe 2).

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