Tigers hold Chargers in check: DWU opens home slate with victory

Dakota Wesleyan University's Koln Oppold (1) shoots a basket as Briar Cliff University's Quinn Vesey (4) defends during a Great Plains Athletic Conference game on Wednesday at the Corn Palace.

The phrase “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is applying to the Dakota Wesleyan University men’s basketball team.

Through three games, the Tigers have had a different leading scorer and multiple players have shined through 120 minutes of basketball.

And that’s not lost on coach Matt Wilber.

“When I am most excited about our group is when you can feel their togetherness and you can feel that with our group,” said Wilber after DWU’s 65-53 win over Briar Cliff on Wednesday at the Corn Palace. It was DWU’s home opener and first Great Plains Athletic Conference game of the season.

The togetherness continued on Wednesday for the Tigers (2-1, 1-0 GPAC), who had four players score eight or more points and they limited a usually-hot shooting Briar Cliff team on the defensive end.


“I just thought we had a really good defensive game and I thought we’ve played three good defensive games so far,” Wilber said.

Offensively, Mason Larson threw down a pair of late breakaway jams to punctuate a 15-point, six-rebound and four-assist performance. Sawyer Schultz followed with 14 points and hit a team-high four 3-pointers. Jeffrey Schuch and Koln Oppold added 10 points apiece.

The balanced production further illustrates Wilber’s point about DWU, which graduated All-American Ty Hoglund and big men Collin Kramer, Sam McCloud and Tristan Teichmeier from last season’s 23-9 campaign.

“Every guy out there can get a basket if he needs to,” Schultz said. “But the main thing is trust and we look at it as a unit. If everyone is scoring we are tough to beat.”

The Tigers finished 9 of 30 from the 3-point line, with Oppold and Bradley Dean both hitting two apiece. Dean logged eight points and eight rebounds in a team-high 40 minutes.

The Chargers (2-3, 0-1 GPAC), meanwhile, struggled from deep. Briar Cliff, which ranked third last season in 3-pointers made per game (12.5), had a tough shooting night for the second straight contest.

In its 55-48 defeat against Presentation College on Nov. 4, Briar Cliff finished 3 of 26 beyond the arc. On Wednesday, the Chargers finished 3 of 25 and didn’t hit their first triple until Ethan Freidel’s 3-pointer at the 17:31 mark of the second half, snapping 16 straight attempts without a make.

“That’s not who they are,” Wilber said. “I think it was a big combination of them and us. Obviously that’s now who they are, but I really thought our pace of play played into it. I just thought our defense was really active. I thought our guys were really good in a lot of their actions.”


The Tigers, who missed their first five 3-point attempts, found an offensive rhythm late in the low-scoring first half. DWU led 27-18 at halftime.

“It was frustrating right away,” Larson said about the slow start. “I missed quite a few at the beginning, but I knew I just had to keep shooting them and keep playing. My teammates were going to want me to shoot them and I was going to want them to shoot theirs.”

Freidel’s two free throws made it 35-32, but a 7-0 DWU surge -- capped by two straight Oppold field goals -- made it 42-32 with 13:18 left. The Tigers’ lead never dipped below eight points after that.

DWU won the rebounding battle (36-30) for the first time this season. Schuch and Dean shared team-high honors with eight boards apiece, while reserve Drew Cole added five rebounds off the bench.

DWU’s home game against Doane on Saturday has been postponed to a later date. The Tigers will now play at Dordt on Nov. 18.

Notes: Nick Harden (hamstring) and Jared Jaros (foot/ankle) are both day-to-day with their respective injuries.

Briar Cliff (2-3, 0-1): Quinn Vesey 1-7 0-0 2, Jaden Kleinhesselink 7-16 7-8 22, Quinten Vasa 0-2 2-4 2, Ethan Freidel 4-9 7-8 16, Nick Hoyt 2-7 0-0 5, Conner Graves 2-7 0-0 4, Jake Carley 0-0 0-0 0, Andrew Gibb 0-0 0-0 0, Codey Hicks 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 17-49 16-20 53.

Dakota Wesleyan (2-1, 1-0): Koln Oppold 4-10 0-0 10, Bradley Dean 3-11 0-0 8, Jeffrey Schuch 5-12 0-0 10, Mason Larson 7-17 0-0 15, Sawyer Schultz 5-11 0-1 14, Teegan Evers 0-0 0-0 0, Tyus Arends 0-0 0-0 0, Ace Zorr 3-3 0-0 6, Drew Cole 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 28-65 0-2 65.


Halftime: DWU 27-18. 3-point field goals: BCU 3-25 (Vesey 0-4, Kleinhesselink 1-8, Vasa 0-1, Freidel 1-4, Hoyt 1-5, Groves 0-3); DWU 9-30 (Oppold 2-5, Dean 2-9, Larson 1-7, Schultz 4-9). Rebounds: BCU 30 (Vesey 7); DWU 36 (Dean 8, Schuch 8). Assists: BCU 5 (Vasa 3); DWU 14 (Schuch 4, Larson 4). Steals: BCU 3 (Vesey 1, Vasa 1, Groves 1); DWU 14 (Schuch 4, Larson 4). Blocked shots: BCU 3 (Hicks 2); DWU 2 (Oppold 2). Turnovers: BCU 11; DWU 10. Total fouls: BCU 9; DWU 15. Officials: Jeff Kopecky, Brent McNurlin, Kirby Wells. A: 569.

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