SIOUX CITY | The Great Plains Athletic Conference men’s basketball race got a bit more jumbled Saturday.
Frontrunners Briar Cliff and Morningside each suffered defeats and Northwestern was victorious, leaving all three schools with four league losses. Briar Cliff and Morningside are each 11-4 in the GPAC while Northwestern has a 10-4 mark.
Fourth-place Dakota Wesleyan stormed into the Newman Flanagan Center and handed fourth-ranked (NAIA Division II) Briar Cliff its first home loss, 88-73.
Dakota Wesleyan’s Jason Spicer – one of the top players in the conference – was at his best with 28 points, six rebounds, six assists and two blocked shots. The No. 18 Tigers (19-8, 9-6) avenged a loss to BCU on their home court.
“He’s really good and he’s not only our big guy but our point guard, too,” Dakota Wesleyan Coach Matt Wilber said of the 6-foot-6 Spicer. “He’s leading the conference in assists. He’s so easy to work with and he had a great game today.
“I don’t know if there’s a team I have more respect for in our league year in and year out than Briar Cliff. I look at them and we’re a lot alike, the way we play. You look at their kids and how competitive they are and you can see why they win.
“This has turned into a rivalry game where it means something to both ends. It’s one of those fun rivalries where guys compete hard. Our defense really did a good job today. They missed some but our defense was probably the difference in the game.”
Dakota Wesleyan had a spurt in the final six minutes of the first half and pulled away for a 48-36 lead. The Chargers found life in the opening 10 minutes of the second half, forging a 58-58 tie behind Jay Wolfe, who scored seven points over a three-minute span.
The Tigers, though, answered with a 12-2 run which included 3-pointers from Spicer, Collin Kramer and Ty Hoglund. A 70-62 advantage turned into enough for DWU, which seemed to respond to every Charger basket with one of its own.
“We both kind of spread the floor out offensively, have a lot of shooters and multiple guys who can make plays,” Briar Cliff Coach Mark Svagera said. “At the end of it, they made more. When you dig yourself a hole like that in the first half, which we have the last two games, sometimes you can get back into it quickly, which we did.
“Sometimes you’re going to end up winning those games but today it took so much for us to get it back to tied with just ran out of gas a little bit. You have to give Dakota Wesleyan credit because they made some big-time plays down the stretch.”
Tyson Smiley came off the bench to record a double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds for DWU. Hoglund scored 14 points and Trae Vandeberg 13. The Tigers outrebounded Briar Cliff 42-30.
BCU’s Wolfe scored 17 of his 22 points in the second half. Jackson Lamb had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Erich Erdman suffered through a rare cold shooting night (2-for-9) but reached double figures at 12 points with a late flurry and Ethan Freidel contributed 11 points.
Briar Cliff (22-5) had won all 10 of its previous home games and beat Dakota Wesleyan 86-83 on Dec. 16 in Mitchell, South Dakota.
Dakota Wesleyan has a chance to make a big move in the GPAC standings, playing at Morningside and hosting Northwestern in its next two games.
Briar Cliff plays host to Concordia Wednesday night.