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DWU men are protecting the rock: Tigers sweep Mount Marty on road

Dakota Wesleyan University's Nate Davis drives to the hoop against Mount Marty's Jailen Billings during a Great Plains Athletic Conference game on Wednesday in Yankton. (Jeremy Karll / Republic)

Both Dakota Wesleyan University basketball teams took care of business on Wednesday at Great Plains Athletic Conference foe Mount Marty. The men (8-3, 4-3 GPAC) won 86-80, while the No. 2 women (11-0, 7-0 GPAC) took down the Lancers 64-59.

DWU men focused on limiting turnovers

Taking care of the ball has once again been an emphasis for the DWU men this season, resulting in it committing the fewest turnovers per game (9.3) in the GPAC. That proved crucial on Wednesday as it only turned it over seven times, including just twice in the last 10 minutes.

"That's stuff you have to work on all the time and you have to emphasize that stuff," DWU coach Matt Wilber said. "But we got some really good ball handlers and guys who can pass and catch it."

Aaron Ahmadu (3.2 assists per game) and Nick Harden (2.8) both entered Wednesday top 15 in assists per game among GPAC players, while Ahmadu's 3.09 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks ninth.

"They're big time," DWU forward Samuel McCloud said. "Not turning it over is so big time. They're always finding the open guy and making plays. None of us can do anything without what they can do."

Clutch free throws

DWU is no stranger to close games as seven of its 11 contests have been decided by single digits.

On Wednesday, that experience showed, with the Tigers not folding under pressure at the free-throw line down the stretch. The Tigers went 14-for-14 from the line in the final 2:06 to stave off any Mount Marty runs and cap a 27 of 29 day at the charity stripe.

This comes just a couple of weeks after DWU missed four free throws in the final three minutes during a two-point loss to Dordt.

"When there was pressure and free throws (we made them)," Wilber said. "We lost to (Dordt) earlier when we didn't make any down the stretch. ... We make every one of them down the stretch (Wednesday). That just shows us a lot, and that's what we needed to happen."

DWU women start slow

Another slow start nearly haunted the DWU women. The Tigers missed their first seven shots, resulting in a 31.3 first-quarter shooting percentage.

"We haven't been coming out and shooting confidently," DWU guard Rylie Osthus said. "... It's not anything the coaches can do. We have to come out and have intensity right off the bat, and we haven't had that the past few games."

DWU's slow start creeped into its defense, too, despite it forcing 22 turnovers and 11 steals. Mount Marty shot 56.5 percent from the field in the first half, as DWU assistant coach Celeste Beck said her team "wasn't ready to play and went through the motions."

For the Tigers to avoid more slow starts in the future, it all starts "coming out with energy," during warmups according to Plankinton native Makaela Karst.

Rebounding the ball

After losing its top-three rebounders from a year ago, rebounding has been a mixed bag for the DWU women this season. While it ranks second to last in the GPAC with 33.5 rebounds per game, it's still out-rebounding its opponents by an average of six per game.

However, on Wednesday, despite eight offensive rebounds, Mount Marty controlled the glass, winning the rebounding battle 30-24. Beck attributed the rebounding margin to DWU's poor shooting and Mount Marty being hot from the field.

Osthus, who leads the team with 5.9 boards per game, says improving on the glass starts with effort, while Karst says they need to start applying what they do in practices, such as boxing out better.

"I like to pride myself on (rebounding)," Osthus said. "I try to go after rebounds consistently, especially in a close game when we're struggling, you got to think 'I need to get an extra possession for us to pull away.' "

DWU returns to action on Saturday in Crete, Nebraska, against Doane University, with the women playing at 2 p.m. and then men at 4 p.m.