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DWU men's basketball team made strides this season

For the Dakota Wesleyan University men's basketball team, there was a fine line between winning and losing this season. The Tigers finished the 2017-18 campaign with a 23-11 record and advanced to the second round of the NAIA Division II men's ba...

Dakota Wesleyan's Ty Hoglund (24) drives past College of Idaho's Gibson Berryhill (1) at the NAIA Division II National Tournament earlier this month at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Dakota Wesleyan's Ty Hoglund (24) drives past College of Idaho's Gibson Berryhill (1) at the NAIA Division II National Tournament earlier this month at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls. (Matt Gade / Republic)

For the Dakota Wesleyan University men's basketball team, there was a fine line between winning and losing this season.

The Tigers finished the 2017-18 campaign with a 23-11 record and advanced to the second round of the NAIA Division II men's basketball tournament. DWU suffered a heartbreaking 62-60 defeat against College of Idaho in the national tournament.

It was a microcosm for the Tigers' season, as they lost eight games by six points or less.

"We had a really good year," DWU coach Matt Wilber said. "But some of those losses and especially our last one, defined some of the stuff we had going on. We were really close to winning a lot more basketball games than that and that's just kind of the way the year went. But our guys really battled all year. Every time our backs were against the wall, we came through and got big wins when we needed to."

Especially down the stretch. The Tigers went 4-2 in February and were hitting their stride to close the season.

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"We were definitely playing our best basketball," Wilber said. "It's too bad that we were battling some injuries late. We had to deal with that a little bit, but our guys, as far as that's what you want to be able to say about your basketball team, is that we got better throughout the year and we played our best basketball at the end."

The season marked the end for All-American center Jason Spicer, all-conference sharpshooter Trae Vandeberg and defensive stalwart Nygel Drury. The trio combined to produce 44.7 points and 14.6 rebounds per game.

"The unfortunate part of college athletics is graduation is a reality," Wilber said. "It's coming and Spicer and Trae and Nygel, all had major contributions to our basketball team this year."

The Tigers will return All-American Ty Hoglund, who recorded 18.8 points per game and suffered a nagging foot injury late in the season. After missing four games, Hoglund returned and played in DWU's two national tournament games.

Wilber said Hoglund began dealing with the injury around Thanksgiving and commended Hoglund for playing through it.

"It was pretty remarkable, obviously," Wilber said. "But he's just got to sit off of it and we have to get him healed up."

Versatile guard Tyson Smiley (8.6 ppg/4.7 rpg) and athletic forward Collin Kramer (6.9 ppg/5.8 rpg) both contributed this season for the Tigers. Kramer started 27 games, while Smiley started 11. Post player Kellen Barden played behind Spicer this season and will get a chance at more minutes next season.

"I am not looking for him to replicate what Spicer did," Wilber said. "But he's going to have to have a jump for us and he's going to get the opportunity to."

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At at the guard spot, Aaron Ahmadu will be a senior. Also, transfer Nick Harden and Nate Davis will bolster the backcourt. Harden transferred at semester break from Midland University, while Davis took a medical redshirt due to knee tendonitis.

Point guard Cooper Williams and 6-foot-8 Andrew Jurgens redshirted this season and will have a full offseason to workout with the team, while also competing for spots.

"It's always fun to see how that shakes out with our guys in the offseason and in the summer and in the fall," Wilber said. "I am looking forward to the offseason with our dudes."

Related Topics: DAKOTA WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY
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