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DWU men to face high-scoring Briar Cliff

Dakota Wesleyan's Ty Hoglund (24) drives past Doane's Zach Witters (5) to the basket on Dec. 2 at the Corn Palace. (Matt Gade / Republic)

It's finals week at Dakota Wesleyan University. And the DWU men's basketball team faces its toughest test of the season to date on Saturday.

The No. 20 Tigers host No. 5 Briar Cliff at 6 p.m. at the Corn Palace in a critical Great Plains Athletic Conference contest.

"Monday through Wednesday, our guys will kind of be focused on finals," DWU coach Matt Wilber said. "We will be able to stay light on them early in the week and get back at it. It's going to be full prep for Briar Cliff and we will see if we can get ready to go. They are such a good basketball team."

Saturday's game will feature plenty of offense from both teams. The Chargers (13-2, 4-1 GPAC) are the 10th highest scoring in the nation (92.3 points per game). The Tigers (10-4, 4-2 GPAC) score 85.4 points per game. Briar Cliff is tied with Concordia University and Morningside College atop the GPAC standings at 4-1, while DWU is a half-game behind.

DWU is powered offensively by Jason Spicer, who leads the team in scoring (18.8), rebounding (6) and assists (5.7). Ty Hoglund scores 18.21 points per game and Trae Vandeberg is averaging 15 points a contest.

Briar Cliff is led by All-American junior guard Erich Erdman, who is averaging 20.1 points and 4.47 assists per game.

"He is just a tough, strong, quick guard that can score it and make plays," Wilber said. "He is a big-time competitor. They've got guys that run around him and they are very good shooters."

The Chargers also have two other guards that score in double figures: Jay Wolfe (18.9) and Jackson Lamb (16.2).

"We have got to guard," Wilber said. "They just don't put a guy out there that you can't guard. You have to guard every guy all over the floor, the whole time and anybody on their team is capable of going off."

The Chargers are one of the hottest shooting teams in the country and have canned an NAIA Division II-best 197 3-pointers this season. Briar Cliff has netted 17 3-pointers twice in a game this season, most recently in a 102-77 win against Morningside on Dec. 9.

"They are averaging 15 made threes a game this year," Wilber said. "That's just a staggering amount. So we've got our hands full with them."

The Tigers are coming off one of their best defensive performances of the season. DWU defeated Hastings College 86-63 on Dec. 9 and Wilber said the Tigers will need a similar defensive showing on Saturday.

"Our defense is going to be put to task," Wilber added. "It's just going to be a tremendously challenging game, but that's how our league is as we are moving forward here. We are going to see a lot of good offenses and we have to keep improving, but it's been a good sign to see our defense really step up and start to see some results."