Dakota Wesleyan University picked up its fourth win of the season on Saturday.
And hardly anyone witnessed it.
DWU released more attendance guidelines on Tuesday, limiting the home team guest list to four tickets per team personnel member. So the usually-packed Corn Palace didn’t have its typical college basketball feel and the smattering of fans gave it an eerie feeling.
“With fans it would have been great, but even without the fans it’s great to get that team win and build that chemistry forward,” said DWU guard Sawyer Schultz after the Tigers’ 74-70 win over Hastings College in Great Plains Athletic Conference action.
The Tigers (4-1, 3-0 GPAC) picked up the defensive intensity in the second half and held off Hastings for the victory. Schultz paced the Tigers with a game-high 17 points and hit 3 3-pointers in the second half. Nick Harden, Jeffrey Schuch and Mason Larson each scored 13 points apiece. Harden added seven assists, while Schuch and Larson both collected nine rebounds. Koln Oppold added 10 points and nine rebounds.
DWU trailed 41-32 at halftime, but held the Broncos to 29 points in the second half on 9 of 33 shooting from the field.
“We were uncomfortable especially in the first half and then we calmed down,” DWU coach Matt Wilber said. “I credit for guys for having a way better response in the second half. I thought we were way more intense. I thought we were may more locked in. I just thought we were a lot more focused, tougher basketball team than we were in the first half.”
DWU went on an 8-2 spurt to open the second half, highlighted by a Larson alley-oop jam from Harden. Bradley Dean gave DWU a 48-47 lead -- its first since early in the first half -- before Schultz sparked the Tigers from beyond the arc. Schultz nailed three straight 3-pointers in 1-minute and 30 seconds for a 57-49 advantage.
“We have to keep finding him shots and he has to keep staying engaged to find shots because he’s capable of making them,” Wilber said. “When the ball is in his hands he’s got no fear.”
The Tigers, however, couldn’t put away the Broncos. Hastings College went on a 10-2 run and took a 59-57 lead with 7 minutes remaining. Hastings College’s Ben Juhl hit a 3-pointer for a 62-61 lead with 5 minutes left.
But the Broncos never regained the lead after that.
“It wasn’t pretty the whole way but we stuck together in the second half and got things done,” Schuch said.
After Juhl’s 3-pointer, Schuch hit his first 3-pointer of the season, putting DWU back ahead 64-62. It was just his second attempt of the season.
“I’ve been working on it,” Schuch said. “I am going to shoot some here and there if they are not going to guard me.”
Schuch then scored two more field goals for a 68-62 advantage with 3:23 left. The Tigers still couldn’t put away the Broncos, who got within 70-69 on a Jared Mattley 3-pointer with :12.5 seconds left.
Schultz made two free throws for a 72-69 margin with :11.4 seconds left. The Tigers intentionally fouled on the next possession, but the refs determined it was in the act of shooting. However, Mattley made one of three free throws and Oppold hit two free throws to seal it.
Schultz finished 6 of 6 at the free-throw line, including four in the final 20 seconds.
“It feels really good to make those free throws down the stretch,” Schultz said. “It just feels good to know that my teammates trust me enough to step up with the game on the line and hit a free throw.”
The Tigers will play at Dickinson State on Nov. 27 before playing three games at home.