DWU never trailed Hastings College, leaning on a defense that forced 15 turnovers, held the Broncos to 25.5% shooting from the field and kept the visitors 34 points below their season scoring average to pull away for a 69-42 victory in the Tigers’ Great Plains Athletic Conference home opener.
“They’re long and athletic and they switch pretty much everything,” said Hastings coach Jina Douglas. “They made it tough for us, but we didn’t make any shots either, so we didn’t help ourselves out, but a lot of it was their defense.”
The Tigers pulled ahead early, using a 9-2 first quarter run spanning just 101 seconds to create a small amount of separation that they’d only build on. Leading 18-12 after 10 minutes, an 8-0 run to start the second quarter forced Douglas to call a timeout. The Broncos would never pull within single digits again, only managing to trade baskets through the remainder of the second quarter and most of the third.
It was then — late in the third quarter — where the Tigers (7-2, 2-2 GPAC) would firmly shut the door on any possibility of a Broncos (6-4, 2-2 GPAC) comeback. A 10-2 run grew the DWU lead to 55-36 at the end of the third quarter and it only continued to swell, reaching 29 points at its peak with just under six minutes to play.
“This was the first time all year where our second half was better than our first half,” said DWU coach Jason Christensen. “That’s where you can start seeing your kids improving.”
Junior forward Matti Reiner paced the Tigers in scoring with 14 points, adding six rebounds and five assists. Senior forward Natalie Gottlob added 12 points and three rebounds off the bench, while senior guard Kaylee Kirk posted five points, a team-high nine rebounds and five assists.
Hastings was led by Ali Smith’s eight points, all of which came in the second quarter.
Despite out-rebounding the Broncos 46-29 (14-5 offensively), Christensen said he hopes to see better effort in that area when the Tigers return to the court for a Saturday afternoon GPAC contest against Doane.
“I don’t know what the total rebounding was, but I thought we could do a better job at getting on the boards both offensively and defensively,” he said.
Friday was the first of three-straight home contests in less than one week for the Tigers, who played seven November contests away from Mitchell, capped by a pair of wins over Division II programs in Hawaii during the week of Thanksgiving.
“I’ll take the Corn Palace over Hawaii any day,” Christensen said.
The coach added to the sentiment, noting the significance of the three home contests ahead of another seven-game stretch away from the Corn Palace.
“[This stretch is] really important,” he said. “I know we’ll be at home a lot at the end, but we have to be able to protect our place and find some wins on the road for us to maybe make a run at the end.”
Tipoff between DWU and Doane is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday.