SIOUX CENTER, Iowa – The Dakota Wesleyan University men’s basketball team was on a mission Wednesday night against Dordt College: a mission to knock of the third-ranked team in the NAIA.
The Tigers shot nearly 49 percent from the field – including 57 percent from long range – and Kris Menning scored 29 first-half point to lead DWU to a 60-54 lead over Dordt at halftime, and the Tigers held that lead into the second half, but the Defenders came up big in the final minutes of the game and pulled away for a 100-90 victory in Sioux Center, Iowa.
The loss was the fifth straight for the Tigers, who are now 13-13 overall and 6-10 and in eighth in the Great Plains Athletic Conference. Dordt leads the league with a 24-2 overall record and a 15-1 conference mark.
The Tigers came out hot early as Menning hit a three to start the game and Trae Bergh added another a few minutes later to put DWU up 8-4 with less than three minutes gone. The Defenders took a slim lead, but never pushed it to more than four before DWU tied the game at 23 with 12:01 left in the half. A pair of free throws by Dalton Franken put Dordt up two, 25-23, but Menning and Jade Miller hit back-to-back threes to spark a 10-1 run that put DWU up 33-26 with 10:12 left in the half.
The Defenders cut the lead to two, but Luke Bamberg converted a three-point play, and Menning later hit a three to push the gap back to five, 49-44. A three by Bergh made it a seven-point game with 2:44 left in the half, and Menning hit two free throws to give DWU its biggest lead of the game, 57-48, with 2:16 left before halftime. Menning hit a three with 32 seconds left in the half, but Tyler Wolterstorff scored to make DWU’s lead six points, 60-54, at the half.
Dordt went on a 7-0 run to tie the game at 61 to start the second half, but Miller and Jalen Voss each hit a pair of free throws and Voss scored to push the Tigers’ lead back to six, 67-61, with 13:51 to play. The Tigers were able to maintain at least a slim lead until Kyle Lindbergh scored with 8:56 left to put Dordt up 74-73. Menning hit a three a few minutes later to put the Tigers back up one, but Alex Terpstra answered with a 3-pointer to spark an 11-0 run to put Dordt up 88-78 with 4:26 left to play.
DWU made it a seven-point game on a three by Miller, but Dordt hit free throws and got some bit layups down the stretch to hold on for the win.
Menning finished with a career-high 36 points for DWU on 11-of-17 shooting. He went 6-for-8 from long range and 8-of-9 from the line. Bergh had 13 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, Miller finished with 13 points and Voss finished with 10 points. Voss, Bamberg and Tate Martin all saw limited playing time with early fouls. The Tigers shot 41.2 percent from the field, hit 11 threes and went 23-for-27 from the line. DWU had 34 rebounds and eight turnovers.
Nathan Rindels led Dordt with 23 points, but Austin Katje and Lindbergh each finished with 20, Wolterstorff had 16 and Franken added 12. Lindbergh and David Den Herder also had 11 rebounds for Dordt, which shot 50 percent from the field, hit five 3-pointers and went 33-for-46 from the line. The Defenders had 46 rebounds and 10 turnovers.
Dakota Wesleyan returns home Saturday, Feb. 8, when it hosts Concordia University at 8 p.m. at the Corn Palace. Saturday is also senior night for the Tigers.