The Dakota Wesleyan men’s basketball team had a 17-point lead in the first half on Wednesday as the Tigers took down Dakota State 74-52 in the home opener.
DWU had five players in double figures, including a big first half by all-Great Plains Athletic Conference first-team forward Koln Oppold. Oppold, who finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and two blocks, started off the game in rhythm going 4 of 5 shooting and scored nine points in the first six minutes of regulation.
Oppold wasn’t worried about his personal performance in his first game of his senior season, but instead was happy with the competitiveness and effort the team showed in its first outing of the year.
“I wasn’t really too concerned with my performance, I was just happy we came in focused and gave ourselves a chance to win the game,” Oppold said. “I feel really good about where we’re at, we’ve got a lot of competitive guys and it was good to see us come out like that in our first game.”
Dakota Wesleyan outscored Dakota State 44 to 12 in points in the paint and outrebounded the Trojans 47 to 30. DWU had its largest lead of 22 points in the second half and head coach Matt Wilber said the team played exactly how they wanted to in its season opener.
“I felt we played the way we wanted to,” Wilber said. “We obviously want to get a lot of post touches and we don’t care where those come from. Oppold gets a lot of them, but I think with our starting lineup we can get touches from any of them depending on where the matchup is at. I like how we finished early on, we were active, we got the ball where we wanted to and we controlled the pace of the game on both ends because of it.”
Jeffrey Schuch went 5 of 8 shooting from the field scoring 10 points and adding eight rebounds. Ace Zorr added 10 points and nine rebounds while Drew Cole nailed two 3-pointers and had a total of eight points. The 6-foot-8 forward Alan Kikwaki added 10 points off the bench and Mason Larson had 10 points, eight rebounds and game-high four blocks.
DWU was without its starting point guard Sawyer Schultz, who broke his hand in practice nearly four weeks ago. Schultz is listed as day-to-day, but seniors Larson and Oppold, who had nine assists combined in tonight's contest, will run the offense in Schultz absence.
“Oppold is a big key for us facilitating and Larson is just the heartbeat, he’s the energy,” Wilber said. “Larson knows what we want to do offensively, he knows what we want to do defensively and he just loves the game and loves to play.”
DWU committed five turnovers as a team and held Dakota State to under 30 percent from the field. Jaxon Simons led the Trojans with 14 points and five rebounds. Both Maxwell Nielson and Gavin Schipper had eight points apiece.
The Tigers host Dickinson State at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Corn Palace.