The nation’s longest active winning streak now belongs to No. 18 Dakota Wesleyan University.
The DWU men’s basketball team grinded out a 70-64 win over Concordia University on Wednesday at the Corn Palace. The Tigers (13-1, 9-0) won their 13th straight game, which is the longest active streak in NAIA after Grace College snapped No. 1 Indiana Wesleyan’s 17-game streak on Wednesday.
Some 760 miles away, DWU led for the final 12 minutes and held off Concordia for its 13th straight victory.
“I am just really proud of our guys to be able to grind games out down the stretch and do enough to win,” DWU coach Matt Wilber said. “They make winning plays on both ends.”
The Tigers placed four players in double figures, with Jeffrey Schuch scoring a career-high 20 points. Nick Harden added 17 points, five assists and four steals. Koln Oppold finished with 14 points and seven rebounds. Ace Zorr contributed 11 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
But defense was again DWU’s calling card. The Bulldogs (11-6, 8-4) entered with the most 3-pointers made in the nation.
The Tigers held Concordia to a season-low eight made 3-pointers on 32 attempts.
“We talked about it before the game,” Schuch said about contesting 3-pointers. “We made it a big thing to get out on their shooters and make them drive and finish at the rim.”
The Bulldogs, who received 17 points from Justin Wiersema, were held without a 3-pointer for almost 12 minutes in the second half. Concordia hit 4 of 14 3-pointers in the first half.
“The main thing coming out of the second half was to run them off the line and let them get twos,” Harden said.
Thomas Young hit a 3-pointer to give Concordia a 45-43 lead with 12:30 left. But Oppold answered right back with a 3-pointer and DWU never relinquished the lead.
The Tigers pulled ahead by 10 points (55-45) with 10:05 left. Zorr lifted Dakota Wesleyan during the stretch and scored nine of his 11 points in the second half. Schuch also produced in the paint, scoring 10 points in each half. Zorr had seven rebounds and Schuch collected five rebounds.
“Jeff did a great job and was finishing,” Wilber said. “Ace had a really good second half and made some really good plays and our guys are smart enough to see those mismatches and go into them.”
But Concordia, which defeated DWU in last year’s GPAC title game at the Corn Palace, continued to make runs at the Tigers. With 4:07 on the clock, Concordia’s A.J. Watson evened the score at 60-60 with a pair of free throws.
After Oppold hit a pair of free throws, Schuch converted an offensive putback for a 64-60 with 41 ticks left.
“Sometimes you are in the right place at the right time and it just works out,” Schuch said about the play.
Mason Larson and Harden combined to hit four free throws in the final 24 seconds to secure the win. Concordia’s point total was tied for its second-lowest output of the season.
“The defensive effort was amazing from our guys,” Harden said. “They went on a run a couple of times during the game and all I kept telling my guys was stay together through ups and down and we pushed through.”
In the first half, the Tigers built a 23-14 lead with 7:15 left. Concordia used a 16-2 run -- capped by Sam Scarpelli’s 3-pointer -- to go ahead 30-25 with 3 minutes left. Harden scored two straight points and found Zorr under the basket for a 33-32 halftime lead.
While the Bulldogs had a tough shooting night, they made up for it on the offensive glass. Concordia, which is the NAIA’s third-best offensive rebounding team, collected 15 offensive boards.
“They got a lot of offensive rebounds,” Schuch said. “But they are a good offensive rebounding team. We tried our best. We could have limited them a little more, but it worked out.”
The Tigers play at Midland University in Fremont, Nebraska, on Saturday.
Dakota Wesleyan University 70, Concordia 64
Concordia (11-6, 8-4): Sam Scarpelli 2-7 0-0 6, Carter Kent 3-15 6-10 13, Justin Wiersema 6-9 2-4 17, Gage Smith 3-7 1-2 7, Ryan Holt 3-7 0-1 6, Grant Wragge 1-3 0-0 2, A.J. Watson 1-7 2-2 4, Klay Uher 0-0 0-0 0, Thomas Young 2-5 0-0 6, Noah Schutte 1-2 1-2 3. Team totals: 22-62 12-21 64.
Dakota Wesleyan (13-1, 9-0): Koln Oppold 5-10 2-2 14, Nick Harden 6-16 5-5 17, Jeffrey Schuch 9-13 2-4 20, Mason Larson 1-3 2-2 4, Sawyer Schultz 1-5 2-2 4, Bradley Dean 0-1 0-0 0, Ace Zorr 5-7 1-4 11. Team totals: 27-55 14-19 70.
HT: DWU, 70-64. 3-pointers: C 8-32 (Scarpelli 2-6, Wiersema 3-5, Kent 1-6, Young 2-5, Smith 0-2, Holt 0-2, Wragge 0-1, Watson 0-5); DWU 2-14 (Oppold 2-5, Harden 0-4, Schuch 0-1, Larson 0-1, Schultz 0-2, Dean 0-1). Rebounds: C 37 (Holt 10, Smith 7); DWU 35 (Larson 10, Oppold 7). Assists: C 12 (Wiersema 4); DWU 10 (Harden 5). Blocked shots: C 1; DWU 1. Steals: C 8 (Wiersema 4); DWU 6 (Harden 4). Turnovers: C 13; DWU 12. Total fouls: C 18; DWU 18. Officials: David Egge, Christopher Girres, Chad Slagle. A: 186.