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With more road games ahead, Dakota Wesleyan men's basketball seeks steady scoring and consistency

DWU men’s basketball gears up for its second road trip of the season.

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Dakota Wesleyan University's Jeffrey Schuch finishes a left hand layup over Hasting College's Mathias Nchekwube during a Great Plains Athletic Conference men's basketball game on Friday, Dec. 3 at the Corn Palace. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Matt Gade

Scoring has been harder to come by for the Dakota Wesleyan University men's basketball team this season.

After finishing with a record 2-6 on the road in November, the Dakota Wesleyan men’s basketball team registered three games scoring less than 60 points for the first time since the 2013-14 season.

The Tigers (6-6, 3-2 GPAC) steadied the ship with two wins over Hastings and Doane to start December last weekend at the Corn Palace, including a 25-point win over a trending Doane team. But as DWU averages 70.3 points per game — the lowest in coach Matt Wilber's tenure as head coach — the Tigers are looking for consistency, especially on the road, where they play five of their next six games.

“The way we run our offense, we get a lot of open looks and our guys do a good job of moving the ball, but in games that we really struggled, we haven’t handled ball pressure well,” said coach Matt Wilber. “For us, we’re not a high possession basketball team so our scores are naturally going to be lower. … We’re not a high transition team and we don’t shoot early in the shot clock so it's a combination of things.”

What’s also contributed to DWU’s low scoring outputs have been the alarming amount of turnovers. In its six losses this season, DWU has averaged 14.5 turnovers per game, which Wilber called a “historically astronomical number” since he first began coaching the team in 2013.

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“We’ve been a pretty good defensive team this year and that has to travel,” Wilber said. “You’ve got to be a good defensive team on the road and a huge key for us is going to be taking care of the ball. If you turn the ball over on the road, you’re going to get beat. Then when you talk about getting to the free throw line and rebounding, those two things are really key on the road as well and getting to the free throw line is an area of concern for us.”

DWU has not had many problems at home, where the Tigers have been 4-0 so far this season and have won by an average margin of more than 22 points. In the two wins over Hastings and Doane, DWU combined for 14 turnovers and set its season-high for 3-pointers made twice. Dakota Wesleyan made a season-high 12 3-pointers against Hastings on Dec. 3 and topped that the following day by making 13 3-pointers with only five turnovers against Doane on Dec. 4.

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Dakota Wesleyan University's Nick Wittler shoots a jump shot against Hastings College during a Great Plains Athletic Conference men's basketball game on Friday, Dec. 3 at the Corn Palace. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Matt Gade

“They were ready to play and we had a lot of fight and grit in us,” Wilber said. “Combined with us making a lot of shots, it really just came down to that. We got good looks, our guys took care of the ball all on offense and we played with some toughness and intelligence on the defense. … We put a heavy emphasis on protecting the Palace and our guys are comfortable there just like most college teams are when they’re on their home court.”

DWU hasn’t allowed a team to score more than 59 points this season at home, but Wilber felt they had some help in doing so as they caught Doane on what Wilber called a “hangover,” being that it was the second night of a back-to-back for Doane after they just earned arguably its most fulfilling win of the season, beating No. 10 Jamestown 89-82 in North Dakota.

The Tigers are 5-1 this season when they have less than 10 turnovers per game and Wilber believes that’s something that is “realistic and attainable” going forward. DWU has tried four different lineups this season and Wilber said the team is still sorting out who will play certain minutes as the season continues on, with attitude and production as main factors to decide who will be playing.

“For us this year, this is as deep into the season as we’ve been where guys are really still fighting for minutes,” Wilber said. “That’s also a day-to-day discussion as well where our guys know internally that they're competing for those minutes. That’s going to be up to them and it's always been that way, but this year, we’re deeper into the season looking for those guys that are going to come off the bench at the guard spot and the big spot and dominate those minutes.”

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DWU travels to play Dordt at 3:45 p.m. in Sioux City, Iowa on Saturday before playing two games on Dec. 18 and Dec. 19 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Branden is a sports reporter that graduated from Purdue University Northwest with a bachelor's degree in communications and a focus in journalism. He joined the Mitchell Republic in June 2021 and covers prep and collegiate athletics. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Full-Court Press, providing a weekly web-exclusive look at high school basketball throughout all of South Dakota. Branden can be reached at bhull@mitchellrepublic.com and found on Twitter at @bhullreports.
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