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Dakota Wesleyan men come up short in final five minutes, fall to eighth in GPAC standings

Dordt outscored DWU 20 to 10 in the final five minutes of play to hand the Tigers their 12th loss of the season.

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Dakota Wesleyan University's Jeffrey Schuch (13) goes to the basket around Dordt College's Bryce Coppock during a Great Plains Athletic Conference game on Wednesday, January 26, 2022 at the Corn Palace.
Matt Gade/Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL – The Dakota Wesleyan men’s basketball team was playing well enough to take down Dordt in a crucial Great Plains Athletic Conference matchup on Wednesday at the Corn Palace, until the last five minutes.

The Tigers and the Defenders played one another extremely tight as both teams were looking to rise in the GPAC standings as the regular season continues to wane. With five minutes remaining and the Defenders having a 63-60 lead, Dordt scored 20 points, 10 coming from point guard Luke Rankin, to beat DWU 80-73.

The Tigers (9-12, GPAC 6-8) fall to eighth in the GPAC standings with four of its remaining six games coming against the top-four teams in the conference.

“They made a lot of plays down the stretch and we didn’t,” DWU head coach Matt Wilber said. “I just feel badly as a head coach that this happened down the stretch. Losing the game like that falls on my shoulders and it’s just disappointing.”

Entering this contest, DWU had won three of its last four games while Dordt (15-7, GPAC 7-6) had lost three of its last four. In the first half, Dakota Wesleyan kept pace with the Defenders. The Tigers shot 46 percent from the field, made 6-of-13 from 3-point land and had three turnovers to Dordt’s seven. Jeffrey Schuch led the Tigers going into halftime with nine points in 12 minutes and DWU had a three-point lead.

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At the start of the second half, DWU was still in good position as Teegan Evers earned a three-point play over the smaller defender. After a blocked dunk on the defensive end by Ace Zorr on Dordt’s Camden Bialas, Dakota Wesleyan got out in transition that led to a monstrous two-handed slam by Evers that ignited the crowd and forced Dordt to a call timeout down eight.

After a 7-0 run by Dordt and both teams traded baskets over the next 10 minutes, it was five minutes remaining and the Tigers were down three. Rankin scored eight of the next 10 points for the Defenders, giving them some cushion. Dordt moved the ball around until it found Rankin at the top of the key and after getting the switch that he wanted off the screen, he attacked and either got to the rim or made a sweet mid-range pull up jump shot right above the free throw line.

“It was tough because with switches, that’s been a good game plan for us to just switch the screen,” Wilber said. “In this one, it wasn’t and they got the better of us on it. It’s one of those things that I wish I could go back and switch how we were guarding that. … Our game plan just didn’t work and I can’t fault my guys for it. That’s how we’ve been guarding and we got beat trying to do it.”

Rankin scored 10 of his 22 points in the final five minutes. He finished 9-for-10 from the field and had three assists. His teammate in the backcourt, Bryce Coppock, finished with 15 points and six rebounds. This was the second matchup of the season between Dordt and DWU, and in the two contests, Rankin and Coppock combined for at least 32 points. Coppock had 20 points in a win against DWU on Dec. 11 in Sioux Center, Iowa.

“Those two guards are really good and they’re tough to cover, especially on those ball screens,” DWU forward Koln Oppold said. “On our end, we made too many mistakes. We had a couple turnovers, I had a horrible one, and then we just couldn’t get stops. It’s the little things, communication and turnovers that’s just hurting us right now.”

Down the stretch, DWU went 3-for-7 from the field and had two turnovers as Dordt extended the lead to nine. The Tigers went flat in the second half shooting 2-for-11 from three and had eight turnovers to Dordt’s four. Dakota Wesleyan was outscored 20 to 10 in the final five minutes of action.

Schuch finished with 16 points and four assists while Oppold finished with 15 points, six rebounds and five assists. Evers had 12 points and four rebounds, Nick Wittler had 10 points and Ace Zorr played well off the bench, finishing with 12 points and six rebounds.

DWU travels to Sioux City, Iowa on Saturday, Jan. 29 to face No. 25 Briar Cliff at 3:45 p.m. Briar Cliff is the No. 1-ranked team in the GPAC and has won nine straight games.

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Dordt (15-7): Luke Rankin 9-10 3-4 22, Bryce Coppock 5-16 3-3 15, Cade Bleeker 4-8 2-3 11, Jackson Louscher 4-6 3-5 11, Camden Bialas 3-5 2-4 8, Trey Hinote 2-4 0-0 5, Caleb Harmsen 1-2 3-3 5, Josh Baugher 1-3 1-2 3. Totals 29-54 17-24 80.

Dakota Wesleyan (9-12): Jeffrey Schuch 6-9 2-2 16, Koln Oppold 7-15 0-0 15, Teegan Evers 5-10 1-1 12, Ace Zorr 5-8 2-4 12, Nick Wittler 4-11 0-0 10, Mason Larson 2-5 0-0 6, Sawyer Schultz 1-6 0-0 2. Totals 30-64 5-7 73.

Halftime: Dakota Wesleyan 36-33. 3-point field goals: DWU 6-13 (Larson 2-3, Wittler 2-4, Schuch 1-1, Oppold 1-4, Schultz 0-1); D 2-5 (Bleeker 1-1, Coppock 1-2, Hinote 0-2). Rebounds: DWU 13 (Oppold 3); D 14 (Coppock 5). Assists: DWU 11 (Schultz 3); D 4 (Hinote 2). Steals: DWU 2 (Wittler 1 and Larson 1); D 1 (Bialas 1). Blocked shots: DWU 0; D 1 (Bialas 1). Turnovers: DWU 3; D 7. Total fouls: DWU 8; D 4.

Branden is a sports reporter that graduated from Purdue University Northwest with a bachelor's degree in communications and a focus in journalism. He joined the Mitchell Republic in June 2021 and covers prep and collegiate athletics. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Full-Court Press, providing a weekly web-exclusive look at high school basketball throughout all of South Dakota. Branden can be reached at bhull@mitchellrepublic.com and found on Twitter at @bhullreports.
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