The No. 1 Dakota Wesleyan University women's basketball team has a game-by-game mentality, unwilling to look at what it's accomplished or what's ahead. It's just focused on the next game.
If the Tigers did look back, though, they would see a team that beat No. 8 Morningside College, 91-67, on Wednesday, though still wasn't satisfied with their performance. As well as a team now 16-1 overall and 9-1 in Great Plains Conference play, which features seven nationally-ranked teams.
But DWU's mentality is why it has six wins over currently ranked teams, including back-to-back 20-plus point wins over top-15 teams in its last two games.
"It's just a game-by-game mentality," DWU point guard Rylie Osthus said. "You just play one game at a time. You don't have to worry about the things in the future or the past, you just worry about what's in front of you. I think this team this year has especially done a really good job with that."
DWU coach Jason Christensen said Wednesday was the first time Osthus, Sarah Carr and Alexandria native Kynedi Cheeseman all showed up offensively. The trio combined for 59 points on 21-for-39 shooting and made five 3-pointers against the Mustangs.
"I'm not taking anything away from Madison (Mathews) and Makaela (Karst), and the other ones that are playing," Christensen said. "But when those three show up, we're going to be tough to beat when those three score in double figures."
That proved true as despite Cheeseman's 1-for-6 first-half shooting, DWU's 18 turnovers and 12 offensive rebounds allowed, it cruised past a top-10 team. The Tigers' other aforementioned offensive weapons allowed Cheeseman, the GPAC's fourth leading scorer, to find her rhythm.
The Tigers' versatility has been the story of the season. Along with multiple players who can score anywhere on the court, DWU doesn't rely on one aspect of its game.
It went 2-for-14 from 3-point range against No. 12 St. Francis (Ill.) on Dec. 21, though used 44 points in the paint and a 35-23 advantage on the glass to win by 23. Against then-No. 8 Northwestern College on Nov. 7, the Tigers were outscored 42-28 in the paint but made 9 of 17 from deep.
"It's just being able to share the ball and trust each other," Osthus said. "We have a lot of trust in one another, so that just makes the team aspect better because we can constantly have a feel for each other and trust that one another is going to do it."
One constant, though, is DWU's tough defense. The Tigers top the conference in scoring defense (60.2 ppg) and rank fifth in field-goal percentage defense (38.8 percent).
The Tigers have also held all of the conference's top-four scoring offenses-Northwestern, Concordia, Dordt and Morningside-to under their season average, allowing an average of 73.5 points per game in those four contests.
"We focus on our defense night in and night out, practice and everything," Christensen said. "... "I think we just had the mindset that our defense is going to get our offense going."
The Tigers' toughest stretch of the season still awaits. They play St. Mary (Neb.) at 2 p.m. today in Omaha, Nebraska, then have games against No. 13 Dordt, No. 24 Midland, No. 5 Northwestern and No. 15 Hastings, with all but Midland on the road.
However, Christensen is ready for his team to be tested, saying it's a good challenge for the national tournament. His team has bought in, too.
"It's definitely going to be a challenge, but there's no other way we would want it," Osthus said. "We want a challenge going into March. If you don't get challenged now, you won't be prepared for what's in the future."