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DWU women's basketball notebook: Top scorer role could be shared by many Tigers this season

Tiger women's basketball season opened Saturday

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Dakota Wesleyan University women's basketball knocked off Dickinson State University in their season opener on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021 at the Corn Palace. (Matt Gade / Republic)

The Dakota Wesleyan University women’s basketball team expects to be sharing in the scoring this season.

In the season opener, that was the duty of Matti Reiner. The Tripp native scored 28 points in the Tigers’ 63-38 win Saturday, Oct. 30 over Dickinson State at the Corn Palace. She said it’s something any number of her teammates can do on a given night.

“We’re in a great offense where we can play off each other and we’re going to get open shots and chances to score,” Reiner said. “We know that we’ve got a team where opposing teams are going to have to close out on everyone and we’re all going to have opportunities to score this season.”

Reiner adveraged 13.7 points per game last season, while Jada Campbell averaged 11.2 points, standing as the DWU returners who averaged double-figure scoring last season. DWU coach Jason Christensen believes there could be a number of different leading scorers for individual games this season for DWU.

“I honestly think we have six or seven players that can lead us in points on any given night," he said. "And that’s going to be important as this season goes on. We’re still finding ourselves and our starting lineup is probably going to change quite a bit early in the season.”

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It was only one game but DWU played 10 players for at least eight minutes in Saturday’s opener. College basketball coaches, Christensen included, traditionally like to shorten the bench as the season goes on, finding a rotation of substitutions that works best, something the coach said will be difficult given the various combinations DWU can employ.

“As a coach, you like to get down to eight, or seven,” Christensen said. “I just don’t know if that will happen this year because of where we’re at and how many good, capable players we have.”

Starting on the right foot

A win in a Game 1 is becoming an expectation for the Tiger women.

Saturday’s win over Dickinson State marked the 11th-straight season DWU’s program has opened a season with a victory.

Both Christensen and Reiner credit a difficult preseason training regimen for being ready for the first opportunity of the year.

“I apologized to the team because I told them this is probably the hardest preseason we’ve had in the last five years,” Christensen said. “We needed a lot of grit. We did a lot of conditioning and a lot of tough stuff because we need to be ready to go, and I think that’s why we’ve had success early in seasons. … And the players have done a good job of buying into it, which is important. We put them into tough situations that will prepare them for when we’re deep into a game or deep into the season.”

Reiner said the offseason is tough but will be worth it as the season wears on.

“We knew that we would need to be ready to battle and be ready for whole games,” Reiner said. “Our coaches have done a good job of preparing us for (the season) and I think that us being able to come together as a team and push through that tough preseason really got us to be close and trust each other.”

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On the road again

All of those preseason preparation is expected to come in handy for the Tigers this month, as they play seven-straight road or neutral-site games over the span of 20 days, including the first three Great Plains Athletic Conference games on the road.

Christensen said part of the reason the road stretch is so long is because DWU had to make special accommodations to its conference schedule in order to make the trip to Hawaii over the Thanksgiving week of Nov. 22-26. Counting DWU’s exhibition games with Augustana and South Dakota State, 14 of the first 18 DWU games are away from Mitchell through Jan. 1.

“I like to be road warriors early,” he said. “I think that helps make us mentally tough. Last year, we were 14-11 and we lost a lot of those games early and then we were able to win games later in the year, I think, because we had learned to play tough games early.”

The stretch starts this weekend with a pair of neutral-site games in Sioux Falls against Valley City State and Presentation on Nov. 6 and 7. That will be followed by road games at No. 7 Morningside (Nov. 13), Jamestown (Nov. 17) and the College of St. Mary (Nov. 21).

“We’re about making our team mentally tough and I think this is one of the ways that we can make sure we’re ready for February and March,” Christensen said.

The flip side of that one-sided schedule arrives late in the season, with five of the final six games at home and eight of the final 12 inside the Corn Palace.

Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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