Depth on bench empowering Tiger women
Six games into its conference season, the Dakota Wesleyan University women's basketball team is turning some heads. The Tigers were picked to finish eighth in the Great Plains Athletic Conference preseason poll, but are off to a strong start. DWU...
Six games into its conference season, the Dakota Wesleyan University women's basketball team is turning some heads.
The Tigers were picked to finish eighth in the Great Plains Athletic Conference preseason poll, but are off to a strong start. DWU (9-4, 4-2 GPAC) sits in fourth place in the GPAC.
Tiger head coach Jason Christensen said his team has only suffered one bad loss so far this season -- a 63-47 home loss to Briar Cliff on Nov. 25.
"In the 13 games, we've had six or more different leading scorers," Christensen said. "It shows that we don't care who is scoring the points. We just share the ball so well. It's tough for anyone who plays against us not knowing who to focus on."
DWU roared out of the gates to start the season, winning its first five games of the year while picking up a couple of nonconference top-25 wins over No. 7 Jamestown and No. 17 Mayville State in November.
Depth on the bench has helped the Tigers early in the season and looks to play a more important role as the season continues. DWU has 11 players who have played in 10 or more games this season.
"I've never had this in my time at Dakota Wesleyan," Christensen said. "When you aren't playing kids 36 minutes, we can wear other teams down throughout the game. We are still fresh at the eight-minute mark in the second half, and other teams are sometimes wearing down."
Passing the ball is a big reason for the Tigers' early success as DWU leads the GPAC in assists per game with 18.77. The Tiger women are averaging 72 points per game and only allowing 62.3 points per game.
"Having such a deep team gives me a lot options, too," Christensen said. "In years past, I didn't have a lot of options. We have four or five players we can put in the post, and we can put six different players in the backcourt."
Entering today's game on a three-game winning streak, DWU will face one if its toughest tests yet, when the Tigers take on No. 3 Concordia (13-1, 7-1 GPAC) in a conference showdown at 4 p.m. in the Corn Palace. The game kicks off a tripleheader with the DWU men following and the Mitchell High School boys basketball team finishing the night with a game at 8 p.m.
"I'd love to keep the streak, but we are just trying to keep getting better as a team," Christensen said. "It's going to be a test for us, and I'm glad they are coming to our floor. We just have to go out and see how we matchup with them."
The Tigers are shooting 44 percent from the field and 36 percent from behind the arc, while holding their opponents to 38.5 percent on field goals.
DWU is finding more success than its opponents in rebounding and free throw shooting.
The team has outrebounded its opponents 468-408 and is shooting 76.5 percent from the free throw line.
"We do rebound the ball better than I thought we would heading into the season," Christensen said. "I think we share the ball really well, too."
Heading into the middle stretch of the season, Christensen knows what he wants his team to keep improving on -- turnovers. DWU is averaging 18 turnovers per game.
"We have really talked about that in practice the past couple of weeks," Christensen said. "We really concentrated on cutting down on our turnovers and against Doane and Dordt, and we did a better job with turnovers."
Beck leading Tiger offense
Senior guard Celeste Beck has played a big role for DWU this season as she leads the team in scoring, rebounding and assists.
The 5-foot-7 Sioux Falls native has scored 182 points on the season and is averaging 14 points per game.
"The thing about her is she doesn't care about the stats. She cares if we win or lose," Christensen said. "That's the thing I like most about her."
Shooting the ball from deep is where Beck has been most dangerous for the Tigers. She is shooting 42 percent from behind the arc and leads the team in 3-pointers made with 37, which is second most in the GPAC.
Beck has dished out 53 assists, 12 more than the next player on the team and third in the GPAC, and she has pulled down 55 total rebounds.
"She can do a little bit of everything," Christensen said.