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Painful finish: DWU men’s upset bid of No. 1 Wildcats falls short

SIOUX FALLS -- Dakota Wesleyan University men's basketball team fell one shot short of pulling off a national tournament stunner on Friday at the Sanford Pentagon.

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Dakota Wesleyan University's Mason Larson, right, consoles teammate Collin Kramer (12) following the Tigers' loss to Indiana Wesleyan 87-86 in the second round of the NAIA Division II national tournament on Friday at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls. (Matt Gade / Republic)

SIOUX FALLS -- Dakota Wesleyan University men’s basketball team fell one shot short of pulling off a national tournament stunner on Friday at the Sanford Pentagon.

The Tigers put a scare into No. 1 Indiana Wesleyan on Friday, but the Wildcats escaped 87-86 in a heart-pounding battle in Sioux Falls at the NAIA Division II men’s basketball tournament. The Tigers finish the season 23-10 after reaching the national tournament for the fifth straight year.

Faced with an 13-point halftime deficit against the defending national champs, the Tigers battled back and took a late lead. However, Kyle Mangas drilled a 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left to lift Indiana Wesleyan to the win.

“It’s extremely painful,” DWU coach Matt Wilber said. “But that is so overshadowed by how proud I am of our guys.”

After the Mangas’ 3-pointer and a short review of the clock, Ty Hoglund’s half-court shot was on line and looked good soaring to the hoop. However, it hit the back iron and just rimmed out as time expired.

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“I am not going to lie, I am surprised that last one didn’t go in,” Hoglund said. “It looked like it was on the money, but the ball don’t lie and you just have to move on.”

The 3-pointer would have completed a 17-point second-half comeback by the Tigers, who received big performances from multiple players in the second half. Hoglund finished with 19 points after scoring just three points in the first half. The junior guard also surpassed the 2,000-point mark early early in the second half, becoming the sixth player in DWU history to reach the plateau. Nick Harden added 22 points and Sam McCloud scored 20 points, while also holding his own against IWU’s 6-foot-10 Evan Maxwell. Maxwell, a Division I transfer from Liberty and Kansas, finished with 12 points.

“Sam was amazing,” Wilber said. “I say this to our guys a lot, ‘You are going to shine on the biggest stages if things are right for you’ and Sam did that. Sam really competed inside. He made huge shots for us, which we knew we needed him to. We just had so many big-time performances out of guys.”

Colin Kramer and Mason Larson finished with 10 points apiece, and both hit clutch shots down the stretch. Facing an imposing front line, the Tigers manufactured points at the 3-point line from their post players. McCloud hit six 3-pointers, Kramer knocked down three 3-pointers and Larson drilled two triples.

“There’s just no doubt what we are going to get from them every night,” Hoglund said. “They proved everybody -- if teams are going to sag off -- they were going to bang shots and that’s what they did.”

The Wildcats (29-5) took a 70-58 advantage with 10:14 to go after a Mangas 3-pointer. But the Tigers had one last run in them. Larson’s 3-pointer made it 72-68 to cap a 10-0 spurt in four minutes. McCloud later knotted it up at 74 with a 3-pointer, and Hoglund gave DWU its first lead (80-79) with 1:42 left. Kramer canned a triple for a 83-81 advantage with 1:19 left, while Larson later laid in Hoglund’s lob pass for an 85-82 lead with 37 seconds to go.

However, the Tigers couldn’t close it out at the free-throw line. Mangas cut the deficit to 85-84 and the Wildcats fouled with 19 seconds remaining. Kramer missed two foul shots and after a steal with seven seconds to go, DWU guard Aaron Ahmadu went 1-for-2 to give the Wildcats life. Mangas, the Crossroads League player of the year, brought the ball up the court and jab stepped Harden at the left wing for some extra space. He then drilled the 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds.

“Mangas hit an incredible shot,” McCloud said. “So props to them. They are an incredible team.”

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After the review, Wilber knew the ball had to get into Hoglund’s hands on the inbound. He also had confidence in his leading scorer and All-American he would nail the shot.

“That was a 50-50 shot for him,” Wilber said. “You could see how close he was to getting that and that was a 50-50 shot.”

Indiana Wesleyan hit its first five shots of the game and jumped ahead 12-0 in the first three minutes. The Tigers were playing catch up the rest of the first half as Indiana Wesleyan shot 50 percent in the first 20 minutes. They hit nine 3-pointers and their defensive attention was all on Hoglund. Joel Okafor -- The Crossroads defensive player of the year -- held Hoglund to three points on 1-for-5 shooting from the field in the first half. The Tigers trailed 50-37 at halftime, but later staged their comeback.  

“To even be in that game is incredible and then to have a chance to win at the end … we were saying you put your heart into something and it’s going to get stomped on every once in a while, McCloud said. “It will sting for a while, but I am proud as heck of these dudes. All of them.”

Indiana Wesleyan 87, DWU 86

Dakota Wesleyan (23-10): Aaron Ahmadu 1-7 3-4 5, Ty Hoglund 8-15 1-2 19, Collin Kramer 3-6 1-4 10, Samuel McCloud 6-11 2-3 20, Mason Larson 4-5 0-1 10, Nick Harden 10-21 1-1 22, Tristan Teichmeier 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 32-65 8-15 86.

Indiana Wesleyan (30-5): Trevor Waite 4-6 0-0 11, Canaan Coffey 3-5 0-0 9, Joel Okafor 6-11 2-4 14, Evan Maxwell 3-8 6-8 12, Grant Smith 6-9 2-3 17, Kyle Mangas 6-11 4-4 18, Jonathan Mpanzu 1-1 0-0 2, Seth Maxwell 1-6 0-0 2, Isaiah Payton 0-3 2-2 2. Totals 30-60 16-21 87.

Halftime: IWU 50, DWU 37. FG pct: Dakota Wesleyan .492, IWU .500. 3-pt field goals: DWU 14-31 (Ahmadu 0-1, Hoglund 2-6, Kramer 3-5, McCloud 6-11, Larson 2-3, Harden 1-5), IWU 11-26 (Waite 3-5, Coffey 3-5, Okafor 0-2, Maxwell 0-2, Smith 3-4, Mangas 2-6, Maxwell 0-1, Payton 0-1). Rebounds: DWU 27 (Ahmadu 5, McCloud 5, Larson 5, Harden 5), IWU 41 (Smith 10). Fouls DWU 16, IWU 20. Fouled out: McCloud, Smith. Technicals: none. Assists: DWU 18 (Harden 5), IWU 15 (Smith 6). Steals: DWU 9 (Hoglund 3, McCloud 3, Harden 3), IWU 4 (Waite 1, Coffey 1, Okafor 1, Mangas 1). Blocked shots: DWU 1 (Harden 1), IWU 6 (Maxwell 3). Turnovers: DWU 10, IWU 15.

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