Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wild night in Sioux City

If you were in Sioux City, Iowa, last night for the DWU-Morningside game, I'm jealous. I listened on the radio, and it sounded electric. What a game bewteen two great teams, and what a statement for DWU to go into that environment and pull out as big a road win as its had in awhile.

A few thoughts from last night's game:

-Brady Wiebe should be starting to generate some GPAC Player-of-the-Year buzz. That was his second 27-15 game in 10 days. And the thing that is probably starting to scare teams the most: he's just a sophomore. Also, I read a thread on a GPAC hoops message board yesterday where fans were trying to predict the award winners, and all the Coach-of-the-Year votes were going to Todd Barry from Briar Cliff. Really? If DWU wins the league without its top two players, I think John Hemenway should be a lock for his second GPAC COY award.

-All day yesterday, I kept getting the feeling Ike Muoneke would have a huge game, and I'm glad I was right. What a monster job on the boards against a tough, physical Morningside front line, and it seemed only fitting that Ike was the one to seal the game from the free throw line.

-Mitch Bain's play at the point is getting more and more efficient. Last night: 5 assists, 1 TO. If they can keep getting just one turnover from their primary ballhandler, the Tigers will be in good shape the rest of the way. It doesn't hurt when he scores 17 like he did last night either, and his back-to-back threes in the first half gave DWU some extra cushion it ended up needing.

-How many times do announcers refer to a "rare four-point play?" Well, how about an even more rare five-point play. Things were looking awfully good for the home team when they went up three late, but Wiebe's 3-point play, plus the technical on Morningside coach Jim Sykes, instantly put DWU up two. Kudos to Wiebe for knocking down all three from the charity stripe with the fiesty Morningside students trying their best to be a distraction.

-Anyone else who listened on KMIT heard Tim Smith talk about the respectful handshakes beteween teams following the game. Great display of character and respect by both teams after going to war with each other for 45 of the most intense minutes of the entire season.

So now DWU is alone at the top. The key, obviously, is staying there. It's probably a good thing that Mount Marty's only league win was against Concordia, who was leading the GPAC at the time. So its would seem the Lancers are the perfect opponent for Sunday - it SHOULD be a game Weselayn can win easily, but at least the Tigers know the Lancers are capable of pulling a stunning upset. Hopefully they can recover from Wednesday's battle and take care of business Sunday to earn another 20-win season, which are becoming the norm for Hemenway-coached teams.

Wrestling throws a shutout

How often do you get to see a shutout in wrestling? Not often, I've found in my years covering the sport, but last night was an exception at the Wellness Center as now-No. 19-ranked DWU dropped Minnesota West CC by the score of 51-0.

The Bluejays were open at three weight classes, so the Tigers essentially started with an 18-0 advantage. But DWU did a great job in the seven matches that were actually wrestled. Jordan Harer, now ranked third in the NAIA at 141 pounds, and Derek Ashley were impressive with first-peroid pins, and Jeff Holmes, Ray Rickenbach and Danny Hutcheson all really got after it to earn three of the quickets technical falls I've seen. Tanner LaValliere had a nice win in the night's closest match, and Brandon Goodwin also earned a solid victory.

Dakota Wesleyan has been really good in its last three appearances, and it will be fun to see how they fare Wednesday when it takes on Morningside and Grandview College in Sioux City on Tuesday night. If DWU can score a pair of wins that night, it will really be rolling as the postseason gets closer.

Here are some links to the coverage of last night's DWU events:

Here is the official relese from the 51-0 wrestling win. The men's basketball and women's basketball releases should be online later today. I'll link them once they're online.

Click here for the Mitchell Daily Republic's Tiger Zone Blog, which features all their coverage from last night's game. Or click here for wrestling, here for men's basketball and here for women's basketball.

Click here for the Sioux City Jounal's story from last night's men's basketball game. There are some interesting quotes from Morningside coach Jim Sykes, and an interesting interpertation of Ike Muoneke's rebounding. Click here for the women's story.

Click here to see the Siouxland Sports Authority's photos from last night's men's game.

Enjoy. Just a reminder - basketball polls come out Monday afternoon and wrestling polls follow on will be interesting to see if we can move up in both.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


First and foremost, congrats to the DWU wrestling team. The Tigers are now tied for the No. 19 ranking in the country and junior Jordan Harer moved up to the No. 3 spot in the NAIA at 141 pounds. DWU will put its ranking on display tonight at home against Minnesota West Community College. Bring a radio and an earpiece and come out to the Wellness Center so you can see the Tigers at home for the final time this season, and still keep up with the basketball action in Sioux City. Click here for the complete NAIA rankings.

Gearing up for the Games

Here are some links previewing tonight's basketball action - DWU at Morningside - in Sioux City, Iowa.

-Preview story from the Mitchell Daily Republic
-Preveiw story from the Sioux City Journal
-The official DWU release
-Morningside College's preview of the women's game

In tonight's huge men's game, I can't shake the feeling that points in the paint and free throws are going to be big. Last year when the Tigers handed No. 1 Morningside its first loss of the season, they did a lot of their damage after halftime from the free throw line. DWU has shown a knack for getting to the line in its recent winning streak, especially sophomore forward Brady Wiebe, and getting those fouls and points against the Mustangs tonight will be really important. I thought it was interesting in the Sioux City Journal's preview that Coach Sykes was worried about some the matchups. Hopefully the Tigers can identify those early and take advantage. Don't be surprised if the Mustangs focus on Wiebe and Mitch Bain, and as a result, Ike Muoneke or Scott Nelson takes advantage and has a really big game on offense tonight, or if someone comes off the bench to provide a huge spark like Rocky Nelson or Mike Long.

Conversely, DWU is defintely going to want to avoid fouls on the other end. Without Colby Fitzgerald, our depth isn't quite what it was two weeks ago. Staying out of foul trouble tonight will be key.

I've also spent a lot of time thinking about what will happen with the tempo. I know I addressed it yesterday, but I just can't predict if Morningside will try to run with DWU, slow the Tigers down, or find some sort of middle ground. The saving grace here is that our defense has been much improved since the first half against Dordt, so if it turns into more of a grind-it-out game, the Tigers should be better equipped to hang with that style.

The women tip off in an hour and 19 minutes, wrestling starts an hour later, and men's basketball shortly after that. I'd say it's a big night for DWU sports, but that'd be quite an understatement. Enjoy the games!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Some links for Wednesday...

Here are some links with pretty good coverage leading up to Wednesday's DWU at Morningside basketball games.

DWU Website
-The preview story I wrote today should be up on our men's basketball and women's basketball web pages sometime tonight. A pretty in-depth, stat-heavy look at both teams.

Morningside Website
-Extensive weekly preview done for the men's game by Morningside SID Dave Rebstock, who turned 50 today. Happy Birthday, Dave!

Mitchell Daily Republic
-Leah Rado's column about the Tigers' continued plight despite the key injuries to Colby Fitzgerald and Preston Broughton
-Story about Mitch Bain's POW award, the Tigers' jump to No. 14 and the Bo LaCroix signing.
-The Daily Republic's new Tiger Zone blog can be found: here. All DWU coverage will go up on this blog, as well as other insight and bonus coverage. This should be a great resource for DWU fans. Their preview of Wednesday's game should be up on here later tonight.

Sioux City Journal
-Story about the latest NAIA polls, and a little about Wednesday's games.
-Story from this weekend about Morningside's games against Concordia and DWU.

How to keep up with Wednesday's games
-Link to 105.9 KMIT's Web site - the official Tiger Radio Network. Click "Listen Live" for Tim Smith and Bob Sprang's call.
-Link to Morningside's live Web cast of the games. Click "Video Streaming" starting at 5:30 p.m.
-Link to live stats from both games.

That should be enough fodder about Wednesday for now. I'll check back tomorrow during the day with any new links, and some extra thoughts and analysis leading up to the games.

Don't forget. DWU wrestling is also home tomorrow against Minnesota West Community College. Come to the Tigers' final home dual at the Wellness Center at 7 p.m. or follow the action live on the Web. Log onto and click on the "Live Scored College Matches" link. Select "Dakota Wesleyan University" and "NAIA" with the appropriate dates to find the live scoring link.

Good Time to be a Tiger

Other than last week's knee injury to senior star Colby Fitzgerald, the Dakota Wesleyan University men's basketball team has enjoyed two pretty spectacular weeks, setting up Wednesday's huge showdown at Morningside. This will be the first in a series of blogs over the next 48 hours leading up to the tip in Sioux City, so to start, let's recap how we got here...

The Tigers ran off four-straight wins at home, including a 27-point blowout of Dordt and a 22-point thrashing of No. 13-ranked Briar Cliff despite losing Fitzgerald for the season early in the first half. DWU also added wins over an underrated Nebraska Wesleyan team and Hastings to improve to 18-5 overall and 9-2 in the GPAC.

In the past two weeks, DWU jumped from the "Others Receiving Votes" portion of the Top 25 poll to 22nd, and then all the way to 14th yesterday. The team's recent tear apparently hasn't gone unnoticed.

Also, the Tigers had the GPAC Player-of-the-Week in each of the last two weeks, and frankly, I doubt either player received too much competition for the honor. Brady Wiebe took home the award on Jan. 19 after averaging 21.5 points and 12 rebounds in the wins over Dordt and NWU. He shot 63 percent from the floor and 95 percent from the line.

Mitch Bain was also honored this week for his role in the wins over Briar Cliff and Hastings. Bain averaged 21.5 points, 7.5 assists, 3.0 steals and 3.0 rebounds in the two wins, and he set a new career high for points in each game. His 19 points Wednesday was a new high for the junior, and he set the bar even higher with 24 points Sunday.

On top of all of that, Coach Hemenway added another recruit in the process. Hurley, S.D., star Bo LaCroix signed his Letter of Intent Friday, and we released the signing yesterday. Things are going pretty good when you can do so well in the present and build for the future at the same time. This is a nice signing for the team. LaCroix is 6-7, can play four positions and has won state titles in both basketball and football in high school. When a school like DWU can land a proven winner who's averaging around 27 and 14 this season, that's a good get.

So these incredible two weeks bring us to the present. Wednesday, No. 14 DWU travels to No. 15 Morningside with first place in the GPAC on the line. I can't wait.

I'll check back later today with some links leading up to the showdown in Sioux City.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Defense does it

It seems like the prevailing thought from Dakota Wesleyan's 86-59 win over Dordt last night at the Corn Palace can be summed up in one word: wow.

11:25 into the game, there probably weren't any people in the Corn Palace who thought the Tigers would end up winning by 27. At that point, DWU was down 18, 29-11, and the Defenders had just ripped off an 8-0, bookended by 3-pointers.

However, DWU came back with its own 6-0 run behind baskets from Ike Muoneke, Chase Walder and Mitch Bain, and then something drastic happened -- the Tigers turned up the D. The final 26 or 27 minutes, DWU played as good on defense as I've seen in my two years watching the Tigers. After the initial 18-point deficit, DWU outscored the Defenders 75-30 over the game's final 29 minutes, and they made life very uncomfortable for Dordt -- particularly leading-scorer Logan Kingma, who managed just five points.

The other promising trait that emerged Wednesday was the way the Tigers buried Dordt. DWU displayed an absolute killer instinct that, if they can carry it over, could serve them really well down the stretch. A team like the Defenders is more than capable of making a big run at almost any point, and the fact that DWU suffocated them and didn't allow that to happen should give the team confidence that it can put anybody away once it gets a lead in the second half.

In my experience, this isn't a trait teams simply possess, it's something they have to learn. Hopefully Wednesday was a sign that it's ingrained with DWU now. We'll see how this trait develops this weekend against Nebraska Wesleyan, who should be a decent test and a huge contrast of style, and especially Wednesday night when Briar Cliff comes to the Corn Palace.

If DWU can carry the two things it found Wednesday night - suffocating defense and the ability to put teams away - into the final month of the regular season, the Tigers should be right in the running for the GPAC crown.

However, a long look at the remaining schedule shows it won't be easy. DWU still goes to Morningside, Briar Cliff and Sioux Falls, and hosts the Chargers, Northwestern and conference-leading Concordia. It will be very interesting to see how many losses the GPAC champ finishes with. Morningside and Concordia have a little easier time with more games against the southern schools, so DWU's head-to-head matchups with those schools will be huge.

One last point - with how good DWU was on defense last night, it's easy to overlook what it did on the offensive end. However, the Tigers were shooting around 20 percent from the floor 12 minutes into the game. They finished above 50 percent as a team, including 70 percent in the second half. Part of that comes from getting hot, but a lot of it comes from running the offense efficiently and getting good shots and easy baskets. The Tigers got a lot of looks in close, and a lot of layups in transition. Once they started getting in the groove, the 3-pointers started falling too, to the tune of 75 percent in the second half. It was a snowball effect on both ends of the floor last night.

DWU will host three big games over the next week and a half -- Sunday vs. Nebraska Wesleyan, Wednesday vs. No. 11 Briar Cliff and next Sunday vs. Hastings. Do yourself a favor and catch them on this home stand -- they'll need to play well and build momentu before traveling to Morningside.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Resolutions for 2009...

I've never been the type of person that made New Year's Resolutions, but for some reason, I decided to try to make a few in 2009. The reason I'm writing this, is because one of them is to re-dedicate myself to keeping this blog fresh now that the calendar has flipped to January. Things have been exceptionally busy in the DWU athletics office this year, and I let some of my other responsibilities take precedence over blogging, but I'm going to do a better job of it from here on out, so to start off on the right foot, here's a super-sized blog to kick off what looks to be a great 2009 for Tiger athletics.

What a Wrestling match...

It isn't often that a wrestling dual meet goes down to the wire the way a basketball game or a football game can, but Wednesday the Tigers hosted Hastings College, and the winner wasn't decided until the third period of the final match of the night. DWU had a nice crowd in the Wellness Center on Wednesday, and they were treated to a heck of a match.

Click here to read my official press release about the win, which details Kyle Henderson's thrilling victory to give DWU the win. Since that release has most of the details, I'll use this space for some extra analysis, but Henderson's clutch win ended up being the difference, and he deserves tons of credit for stepping up in a huge spot.

Sometimes in a match like Wednesday's, the way a team loses matches can be just as crucial as some of the wins. For example, I think Blake Hodne was kind of an unsung hero of the win, despite an 11-3 major deicison loss. Hodne was up against Hastings's Jameon Rush, who is ranked No. 6 in the NAIA. Though Rush ended up getting four points for the Broncos, Hodne really wrestled well, especially early, and the fact that he avoided getting pinned or even a technical fall was a boost for the Tigers. It's clear the Broncos count on Rush to score big points for them every time out, but Hodne did a solid job staying with him, and he was never in any real danger of getting pinned. That was smart wrestling.

Malik Stewart and Billy Murtha also had impressive wins Wednesday. Stewart had one of the most exciting matches of the night, as he willed himself to a late reversal to score a 4-2 win. And Murtha, in his first action of the season, notched a solid 6-2 win to build up the DWU lead at the time.

It was good to see the Tigers win a close dual after dropping a close one to open the GPAC season at Briar Cliff. Hopefully they can keep it rolling with three more duals at home this month. Dana is here on the 15th and Sioux Falls comes to Mitchell on the 21st, and those will both be big matches for DWU.

So close...

Football is often described as a game of inches. It's hard to use the same analogy with basketball, but it certainly seems like it applies itself to the DWU women's basketball team thus far this season.

Right now, the Tigers sit at 9-9 overall and 2-4 in the ridiculously difficult GPAC. However, if a few shots would've fell at key times or the ball had bounced a slighty different direction a number of times, the Tigers could be in a much different position.

Let's just start by looking at two games: one-point losses to Dakota State and Sioux Falls. Both games could have very easily gone the other way. Had that happened, DWU is sitting at 11-7 overall and 3-3 in the GPAC. Compare that to 9-9 and 2-4, and a few points really make a huge difference on the landscape of the entire season.

To go a step further, the Tigers had chances to beat Jamestown, Kansas Wesleyan, Doane, Northwestern and Mount Marty (many of which are nationally ranked). All those losses were between six and 10 points, and DWU held second-half leads in many of those losses. If even two of those games could have gone DWU's way, then the team is sitting 13-5 overall with maybe a 4-2 or 5-1 record in the toughest women's basketball conference in the country. That would get a team into the rankings, and bolster national tournament hopes.

Instead, the Tigers have hovered around the .500 mark all year. After winning 18 games last season, hopes were high for DWU in Aaron Kahl's second season, and it's possbile to just look at the Tigers' record and say that they didn't take another step forward this year as expected.

However, I beg to differ. I think that when you factor in the number of ranked teams DWU has played, and how close most of its games have been, the Tigers are perilously close to being an upper-echelon team, both in the GPAC and the NAIA.

The second half of the season will provide ample opportunity for DWU to turn some of those close losses into victories, starting with Sunday's trip to take on No. 9 Hastings. The Broncos desparately need a win, so they'll be ready for DWU, and winning on the road in the GPAC is never easy. After Sunday's game, DWU will host four in a row, all winnable, so that could be just what the Tigers need to build some momentum for a late-season surge.

I'll check back early next week with some thoughts on the men's basketball race for the GPAC title. Happy New Year!