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Dakota Wesleyan University aims to fix turnover woes

DWU set for home finale against Jamestown University on Saturday

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Dakota Wesleyan University's Koln Oppold (1) battles his way to the basket as Midland University's Colby Tichota defends during a game on Sunday at the Corn Palace.

The Dakota Wesleyan University men’s basketball team snapped its three-game losing skid on Sunday. But the Tigers recorded double-digit turnovers for the 19th time this season.

In the Tigers’ 82-81 win over Midland University, the Tigers committed 14 turnovers that led to 21 points for the Warriors. DWU has turned the ball over 42 times (14 per game) the past three contests.

“We had some bad turnovers and that’s tough to see,” DWU coach Matt Wilber said. “Because we’ve tried to have an identity of not turning the ball over and that hasn’t been the case this year.”

DWU is 86th nationally in turnover margin (0.67) and 52nd nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.12). From the 2014-15-to-2017-18 seasons, the Tigers ranked either 1st or 2nd in NAIA Division II in assist-to-turnover ratio.

“It’s tough because turnovers are careless,” Wilber added. “There’s turnovers you are going to have when guys are trying to make a play. But when you are turning the ball over 14-15 times a game at times with us, you have to tone it down.”

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DWU point guard Nick Harden, who committed four turnovers on Sunday, shoulders the turnover woes and is committed to fixing it.

“It’s really frustrating,” Harden said. “All the turnovers lean on me and I take all that. I have to get the ball to my guys in better positions, so we can score and limit the turnovers and keep moving forward.”

Despite the turnovers, it was still a vast improvement from DWU’s previous outing, a 64-59 loss against Dordt University on Feb. 10. Against the Defenders, DWU shot season-lows in field-goal percentage (33.9%) and 3-point percentage (17.4%).

Against the Warriors, the Tigers responded by shooting season-highs in field-goal percentage (62%) and 3-point percentage (58.8%).

“We went away from who we are,” Wilber said. “We’ve gone away from who we are with ball movement and player movement. We needed to get back to it.”

Tigers set for big GPAC contest

The Tigers and their postseason chances hinge heavily on Saturday’s finale.

The Tigers (17-7, 13-6 GPAC) host No. 21 Jamestown University at 4 p.m. at the Corn Palace. DWU, which was honorable mention in the last NAIA poll, is in sole possession of fourth place in the conference standings.

Northwestern College (19-5, 14-5) and Jamestown (18-6, 14-5) are just ahead of the Tigers in the conference race. Morningside College (20-3, 16-3) has clinched the regular season championship. Concordia (15-8, 12-6) and Dordt (17-7, 12-7) are fifth and sixth, respectively.

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The top-four seeds in the final conference standings receive home games.

“It’s huge for us,” DWU junior forward Jeffrey Schuch said about Saturday’s game. “It’s going to determine where we are in the standings at the end of it, but that’s not a big deal. We just want to play hard together and get a win.”

The Jimmies won the first meeting, a 74-66 decision in Jamestown, North Dakota. Jamestown sophomore Mason Walters, who is the GPAC’s leading scorer and rebounder, had 16 points and 10 rebounds in the first meeting.

Both teams will have extra time to prepare for the matchup. The Tigers will have six days in between games, while the Jimmies will have a full 10 days from their last game (Feb. 10) against Northwestern College.

“We got some time off here and we will get geared up,” Wilber said. “It’s a terribly difficult matchup. They are really good and they are a tough, hard-nosed team and that’s a big game. That’s a game where if you are not ready to play, you get blown out of it. But we will take a couple days off and get our guys to rest and get ready to rock and roll.”

Cole starts, Larson still out

DWU sophomore Drew Cole was inserted into the starting lineup on Sunday. The stretch forward finished with three 3-pointers in 32 minutes in his second start of the season.

It was a season-high for minutes and points for Cole, who received extended minutes due to injuries in the frontcourt. He hasn’t played in 13 games this season.

“He’s been competing and he’s been off and on with minutes and has still comeback and fought,” Wilber said. “... It was probably a better matchup for us. We were probably in a better matchup situation for us, just with us going inside as much and them being smaller and maybe needed another shooter out there if they were going to run to us.”

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Junior forward Ace Zorr started the previous game, but sustained a minor leg injury on Feb. 10 against Dordt. Zorr still posted eight points (4 of 4 from the field) in 13 minutes off the bench.

Cole, Zorr and freshman forward Teegan Evers have each started in Mason Larson’s absence since he suffered a foot injury on Jan. 30 against Hastings College. Larson was out of a walking boot on Sunday, but Wilber didn’t give a timetable for his possible return.

“I think he’s progressing OK. I am hopeful,” Wilber said. “Even if, and when he comes back, he’s not in savior role obviously for us. But it will be nice to get him back.”

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