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Dakota Wesleyan men outlast Midland in overtime, snap four-game losing streak

Tigers improve to 4-6 in GPAC play.

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Dakota Wesleyan University's Teegan Evers (2) comes down with a rebound in front of Midland University's Jack Cooper during a game on Wednesday, January 12, 2022 at the Corn Palace.
Matt Gade/Mitchell Republic

MITCHELL – In a back and forth overtime thriller at the Corn Palace, the Dakota Wesleyan men’s basketball team managed to end its four-game losing skid with a win over Great Plains Athletic Conference opponent Midland on Wednesday night.

While erasing a 10-2 run by the Warriors, DWU made four 3-pointers, along with a layup by Nick Wittler, to tie the game at 32 at the end of the first half. After a gritty second half and overtime that consisted of nine lead changes, Dakota Wesleyan made four free throws in the final 12 seconds to secure a 79-76 victory.

After losing its first home game of the season, followed by a 17-point loss to No. 23 Concordia, DWU forward Mason Larson returned to the lineup after missing the previous two games with influenza. The senior hadn't practiced in nearly a week, but his impact helped the Tigers seal its first GPAC win since Dec. 4 against Doane.

“We had gotten our momentum down and we had some games where we felt like we could have grinded out some wins but we just didn’t,” Larson said. “We played tough tonight and we had some guys hustling. That’s the biggest thing we’ve been preaching. We have to have some grit to us if we want to grind out some of these games. We can’t rely on our talent, it has to be our energy and defense so it was good to see that and see everyone play together.”

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Dakota Wesleyan University's Mason Larson (15) defends a shot by Midland University's Colton Uhing during a game on Wednesday, January 12, 2022 at the Corn Palace.
Matt Gade/Mitchell Republic

Throughout this season, the Tigers have shot 69 percent from the free throw line, but as the game waned against Midland and free throws became extremely important, Dakota Wesleyan rose to the occasion. DWU made 17 of its 21 free throw attempts, including 14-for-16 in the second half and overtime to help hold off the Warriors.

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“When you’re playing together, they go in and when you’re not playing together, they don’t go in,” DWU head coach Matt Wilber said. “They executed offensively, Jeffrey Schuch was excellent down the stretch, but we also had guys come in that hadn’t played many minutes this season like Blaze Lubbers and have a strong impact on the game.”

Schuch had six rebounds, five assists and led all scorers with 20 points, 16 of them coming in the second half. Blaze Lubbers, a freshman from Harrisburg, played a season-high 28 minutes and had nine points and five rebounds.

With 27.6 second remaining in regulation, DWU had the ball in Koln Oppold’s hands on the right wing with a chance to take the lead. After missing a step-back 3-pointer, Lubbers was the first to the glass and had a putback layup to put the Tigers up two. Midland’s Jake Rueschhoff would drive to the basket the following possession and sink two free throws after being fouled to send the game into overtime.

At the start of overtime, both teams traded layups and 3-point shots before Oppold scored five straight points to give the Tigers a three-point lead. Oppold and Teegan Evers swished a pair of free throws in the final 12 seconds to ultimately clinch a win at home as the Warriors could not get a shot up in time as the buzzer sounded.

Oppold finished with 16 points, six rebounds, five assists and went a perfect 7-for-7 from the free throw line. Nick Wittler had 13 points and Larson added 11 points and five rebounds. Evers chipped in with seven points and six rebounds.

Laurence Merritt led the Warriors with 18 points and also went a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line. Rueschhoff had 17 points and five rebounds while Bo Sandquish added 16 points. Ryan Larsen also had 11 points off the bench.

Dakota Wesleyan has an upcoming game against another GPAC opponent at home, but will play three games in nine days on the road to end the month of January. Wilber said the win against a team of Midland's caliber is something the team can build upon to help turn their season around.

“We can’t go backwards and we have to have guys fighting, competing and working in practice to get better,” Wilber said. “I liked our energy and our practices leading up to this game, but that hasn’t been consistent. … We still have a lot of basketball in front of us but these games are chipping away.”

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The Tigers host rival Marty Marty on Sunday, Jan. 16 at 3:45 p.m.

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