Tigers, Mustangs battle today for first in GPAC
The Dakota Wesleyan University men's basketball team is used to big games. In the past two weeks, the Tigers have knocked off Dordt College and then No. 13-ranked Briar Cliff to advance to the top of the GPAC. Today, DWU plays in perhaps its bigg...
The Dakota Wesleyan University men's basketball team is used to big games.
In the past two weeks, the Tigers have knocked off Dordt College and then No. 13-ranked Briar Cliff to advance to the top of the GPAC.
Today, DWU plays in perhaps its biggest -- and definitely most meaningful -- game of the season.
The No. 14 Tigers head to Sioux City, Iowa, to take on No. 15 Morningside College in a battle for first place in the Great Plains Athletic Conference at 8 p.m.
"We've really come out focused the past few games, and hopefully we can continue that pattern," DWU sophomore Brady Wiebe said Tuesday afternoon. "The game doesn't really get much better. If you're not ready to play, there's something wrong with you."
DWU leapfrogged Morningside in the polls Monday to add some intrigue to the matchup -- not that it was needed. Both teams are 9-2 in the conference entering tonight's game. The Tigers are 18-5 overall and the Mustangs are 17-5. The last time the two teams met, DWU upset the Mustangs, then undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the country, 91-79 at the Corn Palace.
This time, Morningside has home-court advantage. The Mustangs are 45-5 in their last 50 home games.
"We have put emphasis on every game this year, whether conference or nonconference or whatever," DWU coach John Hemenway said. "We're trying to approach this the same, but yeah -- this is a big game for us. It's a big game in a lot of ways."
In order to be as successful as it has been in its recent four-game winning streak, Dakota Wesleyan will need to control the tempo and take care of the basketball. The Tigers are currently second in the league in scoring at 83.4 points per game, but give up 74.8, 10th in the league. However, in their last four wins, the Tigers averaged 86.5 points per game, including 91.5 in their last two games.
Morningside, on the other hand, is third in the GPAC on defense (67.1 points per game) and seventh in scoring (74.1).
Morningside's defense will likely pressure the Tigers and try to make them force shots, so good ball handling is a must, according to Hemenway. DWU leads the GPAC in turnover margin (+2.83), assists (20 per game) and assist-turnover ration (1.5).
"I think it's really important we handle the pressure on their home floor," Hemenway said. "I think they're going to get up on us and guard us and really try to force shots. So I think it's imperative we handle the ball and make sure we are a sharp-passing team."
The Mustangs boast three of the league's top scorers in Nick Thompson (15.4), Seth Atkins (14.3) and Eddie Mars (14.7), but Dakota Wesleyan will answer with Wiebe (16.4 points per game), Chase Walder (10.7), Ike Muoneke (10.5) and Mitch Bain (10.4).
The Dakota Wesleyan women also have a tough game tonight.
The Tiger women (11-12, 4-7) take on the undefeated and top-ranked Mustangs at 6 p.m. Morningside is 23-0 and 11-0 in the GPAC. It hasn't had a game closer than 10 points since Nov. 14, and has won all of its GPAC game by double figures.
The Mustangs have a very balanced offense. Autumn Bartel leads the team with 14.3 points per game, but Brittany Williamson (12.9), Laura Nelson (12.6) and Dani Gass (10.9) also average double figures. Gass also averages 5.4 assists, 7.2 rebounds and 4 steals per game.
Allison Johnson leads the Tigers with 15.5 points per game and Sarah Mortenson is second with 10.6. Mortenson and Johnson are tied with 56 assists apiece and Mortenson has a team-high 47 steals.
"They're very good, obviously," DWU women's coach Aaron Kahl said of Morningside after Sunday's game against Hastings. "We're going to have to put forth our best effort."