Tigers to face high-scoring Red Raiders: DWU hosts Northwestern in pivotal GPAC clash

DWU is riding a seven-game winning streak and is in sole possession of first place in the conference

Dakota Wesleyan University's Jeffrey Schuch drives to the basket as Doane's Max Masin, left, and Tyler Sullivan, bottom, defend during a Great Plains Athletic Conference game on Sunday at the Corn Palace.

Worlds will collide Wednesday at the Corn Palace.

Defensive-minded Dakota Wesleyan University will host offensive juggernaut Northwestern College at 8 p.m. in a Great Plains Athletic Conference men’s basketball clash of opposing styles.

The Tigers (7-1, 4-0 GPAC) are allowing a GPAC-low 67.25 points per game. Meanwhile, the Red Raiders (7-2, 4-2 GPAC) are averaging a conference-best 90.1 points per game.

“They came at you offensively,” DWU coach Matt Wilber said about Northwestern. “Their guards are really good and they can go inside. They are really balanced. It’s a really tough team that’s been putting in a lot of points.”

Northwestern College has scored 103, 98 and 111 points in its past three games. The Red Raiders shoot 54 percent from the field, which is the seventh-best mark in the nation.


Six-foot-6 freshman Alex Van Kalsbeek (20.6 ppg/6.9 rpg) paces Northwestern College’s offensive attack. Van Kalsbeek, who is coming off a career-high 35 points against Hastings College, is 10th nationally in field goal percentage (74%). Guards Trent Hilbrands (14.6 ppg) and Jay Small (13.8 ppg) complement Kalsbeek from the perimeter.

“Hilbrands and Jay Small are bucket getters and they just have tough dudes around them,” Wilber said. “So they are a talented group.”

The Tigers, who are in sole possession of first place in the GPAC, allowed 88 points in a win against Doane University on Sunday. It was the most points given up by the Tigers this season.

“We need to work on our rebounding and not giving up so many boards,” DWU junior forward Koln Oppold said after the 93-88 win. “That’s what kind of killed us there and then obviously just contesting mid-range shots because I know Northwestern has some tough guards, too, and they are capable of hitting those. So we definitely need to step up on ‘D.’ ”

DWU also features a balanced offense, with five players averaging between 10 and 18.7 points per game. DWU point guard Nick Harden paces the Tigers with 18.7 ppg, while Oppold puts in 13 ppg and 8.9 rpg. Jeffrey Schuch (11.4 ppg), Sawyer Schultz (11.4 ppg) and Mason Larson (10 ppg/6.5 rpg) also average in double figures offensively.

“I like where our offense is right now,” said Harden, who is coming off his fourth 20-point game of the season. “We can get the ball moving a little more and get a lot of guys touches. I am still trying to get my guys open and get them more points and we can roll. Because I feel better doing that.”

Wednesday's game also caps off a three-game homestand. After Northwestern College, which was honorable mention in the preseason poll, the Tigers play at Mount Marty College on Saturday and at No. 7 Morningside College on Dec. 16.

“We have a really tough stretch coming up here in our league,” Wilber said. “We are going to see what we are made of a little bit more as we keep moving forward here.”


Notes: Harden, who played his first season at Midland University, has scored 958 career points at DWU.

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