SIOUX CITY | After two league games, the defending Great Plains Athletic Conference men’s basketball champions find themselves in a hole they weren’t expecting to be in.
Northwestern handed No. 4 (NAIA Division II) Briar Cliff an 80-65 setback at the Newman Flanagan Center, sending the defending GPAC champion Chargers to their second home conference loss in as many games to start the season.
Colton Kooima fired in 27 points for Northwestern, which improved to 7-1 overall and 2-0 in the GPAC while snapping a six-game losing skid at the home of the Chargers.
Nathan Wedel chipped in 18 points and snared nine rebounds while Riley Francis was also in double figures with 13 points. The Red Raiders got a strong performance from Jordan Baker off the bench with six points and a game-high 15 rebounds.
Northwestern’s defense was also a huge contributing factor, forcing BCU into 36 percent shooting while limiting returning All-GPAC performers Bryan Forbes and Shane Graves to a combined eight points on 3 of 19 shooting.
Erich Erdman paced the Chargers with 26 points, while Jordan Eisma tacked on 11 points and Jay Wolfe eight points and seven rebounds.
“Our focus all game was defense, we wanted to keep them out of the lane and getting those pitch-out threes,” said Kooima, a 6-3 junior from Sioux Falls Roosevelt who already has a 40-point game to his credit this season and averaging over 25 points per game. “We knew we could score the ball but we held them to 65 points and that what’s got us the win.”
Northwestern scored the last eight points of the first half, including a 3-pointer that banked in by freshman Christian Korver, to take a 41-31 halftime lead. The momentum continued with the first nine points of the second half.
That gave the Red Raiders their biggest cushion of 19 points. Briar Cliff whittled it to 63-55 at the 8-minute mark before Northwestern again pulled away.
“We really took a step forward Saturday in defending and built on that for a couple days and our guys really competed on the defensive end tonight,” Northwestern Coach Kris Korver said. “Briar Cliff has three first team all-conference players in Graves, Forbes and Erdman so you can’t take them all away. I was proud of the way our guys competed. We tried to make things difficult for them and Erdman had a big game but we were able to keep the other two from having big nights.”
Briar Cliff had won the last four games between the two teams and Northwestern hadn’t won at BCU in three seasons.
“As crazy as it sounds when you make a little run to end the first half and bank in a three it gives you a little momentum,” Korver said. “Then those first three minutes of the second half we really dictated and were able to extend that lead.I was proud of the way we ended the first half and started the second half and the way we ended the game.”
Briar Cliff Coach Nic Nelson said it’s no time to panic, but admits there’s a lot of things his team, 3-2 overall, needs to improve on.
“Northwestern was really solid defensively and didn’t give us very many good looks,” Nelson said. “Kooima was outstanding at the offensive end but you expect that.
“It’s not a panic situation but we have to acknowledge where we are right now and we’re not a very good basketball team right now. That doesn’t mean we can’t be, we have to claw our way out of this. There’s not one thing we’re doing very well defensively and we coaches have to do a better job of put our guys in position to get better shots.”
Briar Cliff lost its GPAC opener to Hastings, 94-75, on Saturday.
Justin Van Kalsbeek 1-2 0-0 2, Riley Francis 5-9 2-2 13, Colton Kooima 11-25 1-3 27, Nathan Wedel 5-7 7-8 18, Chris Borchers 3-4 0-1 6, Parker Mulder 0-4 2-2 2, Jordan Baker 2-3 2-3 6, Mading Thok 0-0 0-0 0, Christian Korver 2-6 0-0 6. Totals 29-60 14-19 80.
BRIAR CLIFF (65)
Shane Graves 2-10 0-0 5, Jay Wolfe 2-8 4-4 8, Jordan Eisma 4-8 1-3 11, Erich Erdman 9-16 4-4 26, Bryan Forbes 1-9 2-4 4, Jordan Comstock 2-2 0-0 4, Jake Kluender 0-0 0-0 0, Blake Wiltgen 0-0 0-0 0, Jackson Lamb 2-7 0-0 4, Josh Belling 0-1 0-1 0, Josh Monroy 1-3 1-4 3. Totals 23-64 12-20 65.
Halftime – Northwestern 41, Briar Cliff 31. 3-point shots – Northwestern 8-27 (Francis 1-3, Kooima 4-13, Wedel 1-2, Borchers 0-1, Mulder 0-2, Korver 2-6), Briar Cliff 7-28 (Graves 1-4, Wolfe 0-5, Eisma 2-4, Erdman 4-6, Forbes 0-4, Lamb 0-4, Belling 0-1). Fouled out – Francis. Rebounds – Northwestern 45 (Baker 15), Briar Cliff 36 (Wolfe 7). Assists – Northwestern 8 (Kooima 5), Briar Cliff 5 (Graves 3). Turnovers – Northwestern 15, Briar Cliff 11. Total fouls – Northwestern 18, Briar Cliff 19.