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DWU men's basketball notebook: New faces, skilled scorers both key to Tigers' successes

The Tigers have seen some new faces develop into key scorers as the season has worn on.

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Dakota Wesleyan's Kallan Herman drives to the basket as he's guarded by Briar Cliff's Conner Groves during a men's basketball game against Briar Cliff on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, at the Corn Palace.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — This season has been an up-and-down one to this point for Dakota Wesleyan University men’s basketball.

The Tigers boast an 8-8 record overall and a 4-4 mark in the Great Plains Athletic Conference a little over halfway through the season, but DWU has some quality wins to its name from the first half of the season.

Here are a few things to note about DWU’s year so far, ahead of the Tigers' next home game against Midland on Wednesday, Jan. 11.

New faces, key places

For the first 10 games of the season, Diang Gatluak didn’t get any action. But against Dordt on Dec. 10, the junior came off the bench and provided a 21-point, 10-rebound spark.

The 6-foot-6 forward has played in each game since then, and is averaging 9.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. He’s had double-digit rebounds three times, including a 15-rebound effort against Briar Cliff.

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Dakota Wesleyan University's Diang Gatluak puts up a shot in a men's basketball game against Briar Cliff on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, at the Corn Palace.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

DWU is Gatluak's fourth college since graduating from Sioux Falls Lincoln in 2018, all at junior colleges. He played his two allowed seasons at North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, N.D., including playing 30 games in 2019-20 and averaging 8.4 points per game. In 2020-21, he played for a season at Triton College in River Grove, Illinois, then played nine games in the 2021-22 season with Bay College in Escanaba, Michigan.

“His emergence into our lineup has been a big boost for us, especially in (the rebound) department,” Wilber said. “Over a stretch here in the middle of the season, we've really tried to focus on changing our style of rebounding and going and getting the ball and being aggressive on the boards. And he fits that.”

Outside of Gatluak, newcomer D’Andre Dennis has also been a boost to the DWU lineup. In his first season with the Tigers after transferring from McCook Community College (Neb.), Dennis has started 13 games, averaging 6.5 points. He’s been in double figures six times, including a season-high 19 points against Presentation College on Nov. 6.

“D’Andre got into double digits (against Briar Cliff), which is good to see,” Wilber said. “We were hoping he could be a double-digit scorer for us at times.”

Skilled scorers

DWU men’s basketball is no stranger to high-scoring players.

And though the Tigers don’t have a player putting up 20 points per game this season, the trio of Koln Oppold, Kallan Herman and Jakob Dobney have been the top options to put up points this year.

DWU’s home game against Briar Cliff was an embodiment of that, with Herman erupting for 14 points in the first 9 minutes and 21 seconds of the second half, while Oppold led a charge down that helped set up a shot that Dobney made to force overtime.

The trio averages a combined 38.5 points per game, led by Oppold with 15.2. Herman is at 12.8 points per contest and Dobney puts up 10.5 a night.

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Oppold, too, does more than just score. He’s second on the team in rebounding with 7.4 per game and leads the Tigers with 5.8 assists per game, while also boasting the highest assist-to-turnover ratio for DWU at 2.3.

“Oppold, as much as he is a scorer, he’s our assist, point-guard guy,” Wilber said. “Having Kallan Herman and Dobney too, those guys have had really good initial, 'Hey, here-I-am-playing-college-basketball moments' for us without a lot of experience.”

Home sweet home

Home has been a pleasant sight for the Tigers this year. They just haven't had many chances to play at the Corn Palace yet this season.

With 16 games gone, they’ve played just three in Mitchell and 13 on the road, with eight true road games and five neutral-site contests.

At home, DWU is 3-0 and away from home, the Tigers are 5-8. Two of their three home wins came in overtime, their three wins at home have accounted for three of their four GPAC victories, while they’re 1-4 in conference away from Mitchell.

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The Tigers didn’t have a home contest for the entire month of November and had just two in December.

“It’s been hard because we like playing here,” coach Matt Wilber said following his team’s most recent home victory over Briar Cliff. “It’s just the way the schedule worked out with us being in a number of classics and we had three conference road games to start the season.”

To close out the season, the Tigers’ schedule shakes out a bit more favorably, with seven of their final 16 games coming at home.

Zech Lambert is a sports reporter for the Mitchell Republic. He graduated from Penn State University in May 2022 and began at the Mitchell Republic in July 2022. He can be reached at zlambert@mitchellrepublic.com or on Twitter @Zech_Lambert.
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