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Mathews, Travis helping DWU women in different ways

Madison Mathews and Meghan Travis know their role on the Dakota Wesleyan University women's basketball team. It might not be as the team's leading scorer, but both seniors play an integral part in the team's success.

Dakota Wesleyan University's Madison Mathews (12) dribbles past College of Saint Mary's Ashley Nelson (10) during a Great Plains Athletic Conference game on Feb. 2 at the Corn Palace. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Dakota Wesleyan University's Madison Mathews (12) dribbles past College of Saint Mary's Ashley Nelson (10) during a Great Plains Athletic Conference game on Feb. 2 at the Corn Palace. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Madison Mathews and Meghan Travis know their role on the Dakota Wesleyan University women's basketball team. It might not be as the team's leading scorer, but both seniors play an integral part in the team's success.

Mathews is one of the Tigers' best defensive wings, as she's often put on the opposing team's best offensive player. Travis oftentimes makes her impact felt in practice.

"A lot of times when we're playing, she's on the scout team because of how physical and aggressive she is," DWU coach Jason Christensen said, of Travis. "A lot of times she does a good job getting after us and making us better."

No. 1 seed DWU (28-5) plays No. 8 St. Thomas (Fla.) (21-9) at noon today in Sioux City, Iowa, in the first round of the NAIA Division II tournament.

Neither Travis or Mathews expected to be at DWU. Mathews started her career at the University of Sioux Falls, but transferred in hopes of more playing time. She found it, especially this season as she's one of three Tigers to start all 33 games and averages 30.4 minutes per game.

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She even played 58 of 60 minutes during DWU's quadruple-overtime win over Jamestown, 98-92, on Feb. 4. Despite being on the court more than any other player, Mathews, who scored a career-high 16 points, wasn't battling fatigue in her legs.

"Actually in that game, surprisingly, I wasn't physically tired like you would think," Mathews said. "It started to turn into more of a mental thing. It was all about mental toughness, knowing that every possession mattered."

Travis played five minutes against the Jimmies, with her 3-pointer with 48 seconds remaining in the fourth overtime putting DWU up 93-89. She didn't realize the magnitude of her shot until after it went in, saying, "At first, I was like I probably shouldn't have (shot it) because I didn't realize we were only up by one. I haven't been playing much ... But it went in, I got really excited."

Travis never envisioned herself hitting that shot, or even playing college basketball before visiting DWU's campus. She was set on going to school in Oregon before enrolling in DWU.

And after being on campus for 2-3 weeks, she decided to join the track team as a sprinter, too.

"The only hard part is, it's hard to focus on both sports at once," said Travis, who will prepare for outdoor track season after DWU's national tournament run ends.

Mathews is always up for a challenge, too. She makes it a goal to hold opposing players to below their scoring average as she gets a rush in blocking shots and taking charges.

"She's really easy to motivate," Christensen said. "We tell her you'll be guarding this player and this is what she's averaging and this is what she does. She accepts that challenge and goes out and gets it done."

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None of the success during her two-year career with the Tigers is surprising to Christensen, though. She sports the same "tough-nosed" mentality he saw when he recruited her out of Jones County High School.

That gave Christensen confidence inserting her into the starting lineup this year, as well as what she showed finishing games last season.

"We knew she could play on both ends of the floor," he said. "One thing I always remembered about her being a West River kid, she's a tough-nosed kid. ... There's games she probably could have started more (last year). She knew her role."

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