SIOUX CITY – Morningside men’s basketball team is coming off its best defensive effort of the season, the end result just wasn’t there.
The ninth-ranked Mustangs limited Great Plains Athletic Conference scoring leader Colton Kooima without a field goal and held 11th-ranked Northwestern, the league’s top scoring offense, nearly 30 points below its average.
However, head coach Jim Sykes’ club didn’t shoot the ball well either and the result was a nine-point setback that ended a five-game winning streak.
“You hold the conference leading scorer Colton Kooima, he doesn’t score, and as a team they score 66 when they average 96, you got to like the effort there,” said Sykes. “We were a little tentative (on offense), we didn’t score, we weren’t aggressive going to the basket. We just had a hard time scoring points.”
Morningside, currently in second place in the GPAC, split the season series with Northwestern, currently in third. Now the Mustangs gear up for their second meeting with cross-town rival Briar Cliff, the GPAC leaders in Saturday’s 4 p.m. game at Rosen Verdoorn Sports Center that has major conference title impact.
Fourth-ranked Briar Cliff, the NAIA Division II national leader in 3-point field goals made (299) and 3-pointers made per game (12.5), is 10-2 in the GPAC and enters off a 20-point home-court win over Midland, avenging one of its two league setbacks.
The Chargers have won 10 of their last 11 games since that early December road loss at Midland, with the only other loss a 24-point road setback at Hastings.
“Sometimes I think a loss has a way of refocusing a group,” said Briar Cliff coach Mark Svagera. “I think that happened a bit, the attention to detail that we played with when it came to a scouting report and in game adjustments was just a lot better.”
Morningside, which dropped a 102-77 decision at the Newman Flanagan Center in December, will look for another strong defensive effort against the GPAC’s second-leading scoring team and top 3-point shooting squad in Briar Cliff.
“Every day is a new day, our energy has to be there from the start and understand that it’s going to be for 40 minutes and it’s not going to be easy,” said Sykes. “There are weapons all over the floor, we got to contest shots and we have to limit their second chance opportunities.”
The Mustangs rank fifth in the GPAC at 83.4 points per game and have four double figure scorers led by junior Brody Egger with a 15.3 scoring average. Egger, though, saw a string of 10 straight double figure scoring outings snapped in Wednesday’s loss to Northwestern when he was held to eight. Egger, the most recent member to the school’s 1,000-point club, has been limited to single digits just three times this season.
Tyler Borchers chips in 14.5 points and 7.1 rebounds to a balanced Mustangs offensive attack that also sees Alex Borchers (13.1) and Zach Imig (12.4) averaging double figures.
“That’s key (balance) we're not hopefully one dimensional, you’ve got to pay attention to everyone on the floor,” said Sykes. “As long as we have that balance that’s where we’re at our best and we definitely have to get some help from the bench.”
The Chargers have three double figure scorers, all averaging more than 15 points per game, led by junior guard Erich Erdman at 19.1 points per game. Junior Jay Wolfe averages 18.6 points while sophomore Jackson Lamb chips in 15.9 and is the league leader with 76 three-point field goals. The other two starters are seniors in Blake Wiltgen and Dylan Janecek.
Briar Cliff has won the previous six meetings with its city rivals and another strong environment at Allee Gym is expected for the 88th meeting in the all-time series. The teams have not split the regular season series since the 2012-13 season.
“It’s one of those it’s always a fun game whenever we play each other and you know there is going to be a huge crowd,” said Svagera. “Getting down to this point in the season every game is huge. When you’re playing another team at the top of the league it’s going to be a big game and I think that’s so fun to have that rivalry in town.”
Sykes understands the importance of protecting home floor in the GPAC, especially as the calendar will shift to February and there are just three weeks left in the regular season after Saturday’s contest.
“It’s a home game in the GPAC and if you want any opportunity to be in the conversation at the end of the season you got to win at home,” said Sykes. “They beat us at their place and for tiebreaker reasons and things of that nature to give ourselves a chance we got to win this basketball game, but it’s not the end of the world. It’s the next game up we just want to play well and gain some momentum moving forward.”