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DWU women rank high in free-throw shooting

Near the end of the Dakota Wesleyan women's basketball team's 91-81 win over Morningside last week, Mustangs head coach Jamie Sale asked one of his assistants which Tiger his team should foul to put on the free-throw line.

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Dakota Wesleyan University's Kristin Sabers shoots the ball during a Great Plains Athletic Conference game against Doane on Wednesday at the Corn Palace. The Tigers are No. 3 in the nation for free throw shooting. (Matt Gade/Republic)

Near the end of the Dakota Wesleyan women's basketball team's 91-81 win over Morningside last week, Mustangs head coach Jamie Sale asked one of his assistants which Tiger his team should foul to put on the free-throw line.

It's a strategy many coaches turn to when their team is trailing in the final minutes. Make the opposing team beat you at the charity stripe, while the clock is stopped.

Against the top-ranked DWU women, one of the nation's top free throw shooting teams, the desperate strategy doesn't work as well. The Tigers' went 26-of-29 from the line against the Mustangs, including a perfect 15-of-15 in the fourth quarter.

Simply put, the Tigers don't miss many free throws.

"I think we take pride in that," said junior Ashley Bray, who is 47-of-49 from the line this season. "Last year, we lost a few games by less than five points and those free throws could determine it. This year, we've been doing better and those free throws could swing a game for us."

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Bray, who is shooting 95.9 percent on free throws, is one of four Tigers that shoots free throws at a percentage above 80 percent. Bray's twin sister, Amber, leads DWU with a 96.4 percentage (27-of-28). Freshmen Sarah Carr and Kynedi Cheeseman are each shooting above 80 percent, with Carr at 85.4 percent (35-of-41) and Cheeseman at 84.2 percent (16-of-19).

Through 12 games this season, DWU (11-1, 5-1 GPAC) doesn't have a player, who has appeared in more than 10 games this season, shooting below 60 percent.

"We hold each other accountable, but we also help each other out," sophomore Chesney Nagel said about the team's free throws. "It's good for us."

Entering Wednesday's game against Doane, DWU was ranked No. 1 in NAIA Division II for free throw percentage, netting the free shots at 80 percent.

For its high free throw shooting standards, DWU had an off night at the foul line against Doane, going 15-of-21 for 71.4 percent.

"I think that was our biggest weaknesses," Ashley Bray said after Wednesday's game. "Our free throws were a struggle (Wednesday night), so we have to get extra shots during the week. A lot of girls focus on free throws because those are easy shots. They are free and you want to make them."

The slight setback at the foul line, moved DWU from the No. 1 free throw shooting team to No. 3, as the team's percentage fell to 79.6 percent.

That's just added motivation for a strong free throw shooting team to continue to work harder at the foul line to make sure the team doesn't leave any free points.

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"In practice, we usually shoot free throws after doing a hard drill so we're tired, which is game-like," Nagel said. "It really helps to make free throws like a game in practice."

After seeing his team bounce back from its first loss of the season by completely dismantling Doane in the final three quarters on Wednesday, DWU head coach Jason Christensen said it was his players pointing out mistakes after a blowout win.

"That's the group of kids I'm coaching. Most teams would be satisfied with a 21-point win, but no, we are talking about things we need to fix," Christensen said. "We missed six free throws, those are free. There's a reason they are called free. That's the neat thing about our kids, they get it. This group is a fun group to coach."

DWU takes on No. 14 Hastings at 2 p.m. on Saturday in Hastings, Nebraska.

Related Topics: DAKOTA WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY
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