Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Moving on

That's all the DWU men's basketball team can do after Saturday's loss. Move on. Well, no. First, they can learn from it. Then move on. That loss cannot sit on them all year, or they will be doomed.

For those that don't know, Saturday the Tigers had (at one point) a 17-point lead on Briar Cliff. The Chargers whittled that down, and it was tied at 67 late in the game. DWU got the ball in the last 15 seconds thanks to a BCU offensive foul, and Mike Lee missed a three after DWU called its last timeout. The Tigers pulled down the rebound, and called a timeout on the floor - with no timeouts left. For those that aren't aware, that's a technical foul. So BCU hit two free throws with 0.9 seconds left. Carde Pennington put up a good three-point shot, but it went in and out as the buzzer went off.

Heartbreaking. Hard to swallow. And the worst part - it's not the first crazy loss for DWU this season. It's the second. On Nov. 12, a winless Kansas Wesleyan team (that looked TERRIBLE the night before against S.D. Tech) was within two points of the Tigers in the final seconds of the game, picked off an errant pass (pass? Throw? Lob in the air?) and put up a desperation three that went in. The guy was literally falling backwards, and yet the ball banked off the backboard and went in.

Two losses that are very hard to handle. DWU could very realistically be 7-0 right now and have beaten one of the GPAC's toughest teams. But it isn't, and the Tigers have to learn from that and move on. Right now. Tonight they take on a York team that has been improving in recent years. Next week, they start a steady GPAC schedule that has little to no "gimmie" games or for-sure wins. It will be interesting to see how these Tigers handle this. One thing's for sure - they are going to give me a heart attack before this season is over. The past three games have been decided by a grand total of four points. Yeesh.

The Tiger women look good early this season. They picked up a nice win against a tough Valley City team. DWU also looked good in the first half against No. 5 Briar Cliff, and were only down by nine at halftime. The Chargers forced some turnovers in the second half and started shooting better, but DWU was right in that game for awhile. Amanda Hart is having a good year; she leads the nation (not just the GPAC, the NATION) in threes per game (4.4) and is a big reason the Tigers were so close for so long against BCU. She was named the GPAC Player-of-the-Week this afternoon.

Fall sports are officially over here at DWU; all the All-GPAC awards are out and outdoor sports done for the season. Congrats to all our all-conference athletes. This year was especially big for the men's soccer program, which had its first first- and second-team honorees since 2006 (Hugo Gonzalez earned first-team honors and Eric Christianson and Jordan Werner were named to the second team).

Crazy to think basketball and wrestling have been going for almost three weeks now. But at least that means it's Thanksgiving break! Hope everyone has a wonderful day full of family and friends. Don't forget to let those you love know how thankful you are for them.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bigger than sports

I had a whole blog post planned out about the basketball teams and a 'devastating loss' and exciting win and some big games this weekend, but with the events of the past two days I just don't have the heart to post it. It just doesn't seem to matter right now.

Yesterday, we found out in chapel that Hunter Bork, a sprinter on the Tiger track team, is dealing with his second bout of cancer. He has been in remission for a few years now, has a prosthetic after losing his leg and just this summer set an American record in the Paralympics. I did a story on Hunter last year for Wesleyan Today, and he was so upbeat and positive about life and losing his leg; he didn't let it bother him. He was training for another shot at the Paralympics. Now, the cancer is back, and he has a long battle of chemo and radiation ahead of him.

Now, this morning, the world woke up to the news that the Oklahoma State women's basketball coach and his assistant were killed in a plane crash last night. This just 10 years after 10 people associated with the men's basketball team at OSU were killed in a plane crash. That one school could suffer such tragedy is heartbreaking. And to write about DWU's 'devastating loss' to Kansas Wesleyan after this - a true devastating loss - seems trivial and elementary.

So this blog post today, especially with the holidays coming up, is to remind everyone that, no matter how much you love your favorite team or how well or poorly they are doing, there is so much more to life than sports. There are so many things so much bigger than sports. Friends, family, teammates. So please be safe this holiday season and spend time with your families and friends. And please, keep both Hunter and the Oklahoma State campus in your prayers.

Friday, November 4, 2011

And we're off!

First basketball game of the year was last night, and it was all-around entertaining. Three-point shots, pretty layups and even a HUGE dunk. It was a good game; a good one for everyone to shake off the rust and work out the kinks. The Tigers beat Black Hills State 74-59.

You could tell the Tigers are a new team in the first half. We were putting up some rushed shots, some crazy shots and some shots that were making coach Murphy pretty unhappy. We also gave up quite a few offensive boards. In the second half, everyone seemed to have calmed down and found their groove a bit. That's when it got fun.

Carde Pennington, a 5-foot-7 junior transfer from Chicago, Ill., hit three straight 3-pointers (all off assists from Kris Wilson, who did an awesome little victory dance after the third one) and a pair of free throws to give DWU a sizeable lead. Then, as if to tell Black Hills to just back off, Jordan Long broke free and took a full-court pass from German Madueno and slammed in a huge dunk. The Corn Palace crowd (which was pretty good sized for an early-season game on a Thursday) went absolutely nuts. That basically took the wind out of Black Hills' sails.

Mike Lee, another junior transfer, led the team with 21 points. It was a fairly quiet 21 points; he hit three 3-pointers, other than that it was layups and a handful of tough jumpers. After he hit one of his last baskets he did a little dance at about the free-throw line; I don't know how many people saw that but I enjoyed it.

It was really fun to watch Pennington and Lee take over the game and do their thing. Pennington is small, but he's so fast, and he has such a smooth shot. Each time it left his hands you just knew it was going in (and the BHSU coaches knew it too, and therefore weren't too happy when he was allowed to get a shot off, which was fairly often). Lee is also quick, and was able to make some tough shots in front of the BHSU defense.

The Tigers are up in Ellendale, N.D., for a game against Trinity Bible College this weekend and are back at home Tuesday against Mayville State. I'm looking forward to watching this team all season; it will be fun to see how it evolves.

The DWU women are also up in Ellendale this weekend for their first game of 2011-12. Last year the Tigers were young. This year is no different. The difference in this year and last year, however, is the amount of experience on the team. All the sophomores played a decent amount of minutes as freshmen last year, and several of them started. Liz Lamb and Brittany Hills are both in their third years with the program and will be looking to pick up a few more wins, and Brittany Pritchard is back as the team's only starting senior. Kim Johnson, Amanda Hart, Taylor Piper and Whitnee Clayton are a few sophomores that will play, and Celeste Beck and Katie Johnson are the two freshmen that are expected to see playing time.

I think what's going to be key for this year's young squad is forgetting mistakes. Last year it seemed like they'd be doing ok, then someone would turn the ball over or make a bad shot and everything just snowballed. Things happen; we just need to learn from it and move on, and quickly. Teams will take advantage of a meltdown, even a short one. Especially GPAC teams. There were three GPAC teams in the top five in the NAIA's top 25 preseason poll, so league games aren't going to be any easier this season.

Last home football game of the year Saturday. Tigers need a win to get back on track and end on a good note after such a solid start.

The Tiger men's soccer team plays in a GPAC semifinal game Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Pepsi-Cola Complex. No. 2 DWU hosts No. 3 Midland. Midland beat DWU 3-1 earlier this year in Fremont, Neb. A Tiger win would mean their first-ever trip to the GPAC championship game.

Lots to do this weekend. Someone needs to find a way for me to be in about four places at once. The basketball/football overlap makes life crazy, but I enjoy every minute of it. I might sleep every spare minute I'm not working, but I'm ok with that.

Hope to see everyone at at least one sporting event this weekend. Who ya rootin' for?!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Every new beginning is some other beginning's end

A little Semisonic as a title for this edition of the Tiger Talk blog, anyone? I thought it was a pretty clever idea, not going to lie. Anyway...

I got the idea for my oh-so-creative title because the football team is starting to wind down its season with just two more games on the slate, but the men's and women's basketball seasons are just beginning theirs! These next two weeks are some of the busiest of the year because of the football/basketball overlap, and then wrestling starts and cross country and soccer are into the GPAC championships and playoffs. They are some of those weeks when sleep trumps all other non-work related activity, whether it be eating, reading, watching TV, having a life, etc. But, I also love these two weeks because there's such a variety of sports!

We'll start with football. The Tigers have, unfortunately, lost their past three games, which knocked them out of the NAIA Top 25 poll and, therefore, the playoff picture. DWU hosts Nebraska Wesleyan this Saturday and ends 2011 with a trip to Midland Nov. 12. After the Morningside heartbreak, the Tigers came up just short again against Doane. They were down big early, but Jon Bane and Anthony Muilenburg connected for three fourth-quarter touchdowns to take a one-point lead. Doane scored again, and DWU had the chance to win, but Bane's pass just missed Muilenburg's fingers (from what I'm told).

Those two losses, which came by a combined seven points, seemed to push DWU over the edge last week when they got beat 34-0 by Northwestern. I listened to most of the game on the radio, and it just didn't sound like we had any life in us. I don't think we got our first first down of the game until midway through the second quarter, we couldn't seem to stop anything they did and we gave up a few easy touchdowns. Josh Endres ran for 128 yards and was the one bright spot on the day for DWU, which was held to around 200 yards of total offense. We average more than 300 yards per game through the air, and didn't even get 150.

Hopefully that loss snaps the boys out of whatever funk they were in. We can still end the season 7-3, which isn't as good as 10-0 or even 9-1, but it's still a winning season, and nothing to be ashamed of. Sure, we probably could have won all three, but that's the way it goes sometimes. A win would be a good way for the seniors to go out, too.

And while football is wrapping up its season... basketball is getting ready to start! The men's first home game is this Thursday at 7 p.m. vs. Black Hills State. DWU won 96-94 in double overtime last year, but BHSU lost almost all of its key guys from last year. The Tigers are kind of a new team this year as well. They lost Brady, Larry and Chase - their top three scorers. Replacing Wiebe is going to be tough, and coach Murphy knows it can't be done by one guy. Sounds like freshman Jalen Voss has been doing pretty well so far, and I would bet he sees a lot of minutes as a freshman. Murphy said in their scrimmage against USF, some of the Cougars' more seasoned guys had no answer for Voss when he was on his game. Of course, playing that consistently so early in his college career will be an issue, but that's good to hear.

Transfers Mike Lee and Carde Pennington look to play a big role this season, and both are listed as probable starters for Thursday. Carde is small but quick, and Mike is a tall, fast basketball player. Sounds like health is a bit of an issue with him, but Murphy had good things to say about both guys. Then, of course, there's German Madueno, Jordan Long, Jake Kneeland, Bo LaCroix, Justin Nelson, Kris Wilson, et. al. German (who is wearing Brady's No. 32, which will be weird at first) will likely have a bigger role and be looked to for scoring. He had a good season last year, and without Brady that gives him the green light for more shots and scoring opportunities. Jordan and Jake have both been here four years, and will hopefully have big senior seasons.

Bo is poised to have a big junior year. He showed flashes of brilliance last year, and Murphy is hoping he puts it all together this year. Nelson and Wilson both played the point last year, and Nelson took over as a starter as a sophomore, so he will be a good guy off the bench (depending on the rotation, who's healthy, etc.). All in all, should be an interesting year! Starting with BHSU is exciting, as that's a good rivalry, even if Black Hills is in the transition to NCAA DII.

Women's basketball starts Saturday at Trinity Bible College... I'll do more on them later this week. This post has gone on long enough.

One final note: the men's soccer team earned the No. 2 seed (highest in school history) in the GPAC playoffs and hosts its first-ever GPAC playoff game tonight at 6 p.m. Semifinals are Saturday if the Tigers win, and the championship is next Thursday. Big night for Tiger soccer, come cheer! Who ya rootin' for?!