DWU takes winning streak on the road: Tigers travel to Mount Marty for GPAC battle
Dakota Wesleyan set for two straight road games
Matt Wilber continues to be impressed with his team’s toughness.
After dropping its season opener against Valley City State University, the Dakota Wesleyan University men’s basketball team has strung together eight straight victories. The Tigers (8-1, 5-0 GPAC) are the lone undefeated team in Great Plains Athletic Conference play.
Their latest game, a seesaw victory over Northwestern College, was perhaps the biggest of the season. The Red Raiders, who received votes in the preseason NAIA poll, entered as the highest-scoring team in the GPAC. But the Tigers held Northwestern to 14 points below its season average in their 82-76 win.
It could be a résumé builder for the first NAIA national poll, which will be released on Dec. 16. Wilber is privy to the off-the-court ramifications, while also praising DWU’s toughness on the floor.
“I just am really impressed with how tough we are,” Wilber said. “We are very tough and are very together. Those are two words when I first got here that we talked about and this group is developing an identity of that.”
After three straight home games, the Tigers hope their identity travels with them to Yankton and Sioux City, Iowa. DWU will play its next two games at rival Mount Marty University and No. 7 Morningside College. The Tigers play at Mount Marty at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
“The big thing for us now when you talk about our toughness, is are we going to be able to move on and get geared up for the next one,” Wilber said.
The next one is Mount Marty (6-5, 3-3 GPAC). The Lancers, who were one of the nation’s top 3-point shooting teams last season, are again deadly from long range. Mount Marty has canned the most 3-pointers in the nation (123), while averaging 11 made 3-pointers a game. Elijah Pappas leads the Lancers in points (14), rebounds (6.6), assists (3.5) and steals (2.1) per game. Jailen Billings adds 13.5 points per game.
The Tigers and Lancers tangled three times last season. DWU lost two of the three meetings, but topped the Lancers in the GPAC tournament semifinals at the Corn Palace.
“It’s a rivalry game. They know it’s a rivalry. We know it’s a rivalry,” Wilber said. “We are just going to have to keep moving forward, but it’s still going to stay in the theme of can we keep getting better as a group.”
DWU’s Nick Harden is coming off 13 points and a season-high 11 assists against Northwestern College. He’s averaging a team-high 18 points per game. Koln Oppold logs 13.8 points and a team-high 8.8 boards per contest. Mason Larson (11.1 ppg/6.3 rpg), Sawyer Schultz (11 ppg) and Jeffrey Schuch (10.7 ppg) round out DWU’s starting lineup.