Tigers are back on court after unusual break: DWU plays at Dakota State
DWU is coming off two-week break in between games
In an unprecedented season, the Dakota Wesleyan University men’s basketball team is coming off an unprecedented break.
The Tigers had their Dec. 19 contest against Midland University postponed due to COVID-19 issues in the Warriors’ program. That will force DWU to go two full weeks in between games, the longest break during Matt Wilber’s eight-year tenure as coach.
The Tigers usually schedule a trip to Florida or Nevada in December, while they also played in the Hoop City Classic after Christmas. DWU didn’t schedule either this season and the Midland cancellation forced the two-week break between contests.
But in a season filled with twists and turns due to COVID-19, Wilber was fine with a longer break.
“Our guys have been staring at their dorm room wall -- outside of playing basketball,” Wilber said. “So they deserve some time off and an extended break was OK with me.”
The Tigers (10-1, 7-0 GPAC) headed into the two-week break with some momentum. On Dec. 16, No. 18 Dakota Wesleyan stunned No. 8 Morningside College by a 75-60 score in Sioux City, Iowa.
It was Morningside College’s second loss in the GPAC, while DWU remained perfect in league play and atop the standings by two games.
It was just Wilber’s third coaching win at Morningside College and he credits the first half for sparking the victory. The Tigers shot 18 of 34 (52.9%) from the field and hit seven 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes. DWU led by as many as 24 points and had a 43-22 halftime lead.
“Of all my games being here, if it wasn’t the best half we played, it was in the top three,” Wilber said. “You are just talking about a very well executed offensive and defensive half.”
Nick Harden paced the Tigers with 24 points and six steals. Mason Larson added 18 points and seven rebounds, while Jeffrey Schuch finished with 10 points and seven boards. Sawyer Schultz (9 points/4 rebounds) and Koln Oppold (7 points/5 rebounds/4 assists) rounded out the starting lineup.
The Tigers are now on a 10-game winning streak, which is behind only Indiana Wesleyan (16) and William Penn (11) for the longest active streaks in NAIA.
DWU will play at Dakota State University at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Madison. It will be DWU’s final non-conference game before it finishes up conference action.
The Tigers defeated the Trojans, 81-63, on Dec. 2 at the Corn Palace. But Dakota State won its next game against Bellevue University, which received votes in the preseason poll, and lost to Briar Cliff in overtime on Dec. 21.
Wilber doesn’t expect a repeat of DWU’s win at home from earlier in the season.
“It’s really a big challenge going up to their place,” Wilber said. “I hope we are excited to go play and excited to keep getting better here this year.”
Dakota State turns contest into doubleheader
The DWU vs. DSU contest will now be part of a doubleheader.
Tuesday’s Briar Cliff at Dakota State women’s basketball game was postponed to Wednesday and it will be played at 5 p.m. The Tigers and Trojans will follow at 7 p.m. at DSU Fieldhouse.
Dakota State officials are allowing only 265 fans and 33% capacity limit at its venue. Fans are required to wear face masks entering the building and throughout the game.
The ticket gate will close at 5:15 p.m. for the first game and will not open again until 6:30 p.m. for the men’s contest.