SIOUX CITY – Morningside has certainly faced zone defenses before, it just wasn’t expecting Doane to play one Wednesday night.
Doane’s zone defense gave the Mustangs fits, but they survived a close Great Plains Athletic Conference men’s basketball battle, 67-58, at the Rosen-Verdoorn Sports Center.
Fourth-ranked (NAIA Division II) Morningside struggled from beyond the arc, cashing in on just 6 of 27. The Mustangs, though, made a couple of long-range bombs when they had to, remaining unbeaten at 5-0 overall and 4-0 in the GPAC.
“We had never seen them play zone before tonight,” Morningside Coach Jim Sykes said. “It’s not that we don’t work on a zone defense, but we were a little surprised. Then you put 6-10 and 6-7 out there, there’s not a lot of space and that big guy in the middle all the time might be what we’re looking at instead of the basket, I’m not sure.
“But for us to win both halves in a situation like that, we’re going to take it. We just found ways to score the basketball. It wasn’t pretty but when we struggled from the perimeter, we found ways to get to the basket. Again, it was just a great team effort.”
Matt Hahn hit two of the biggest 3-pointers of the game, connecting on back-to-back treys at the midway point of the second half to stretch a five-point lead to 11.
“I’ve been struggling from the 3-point line and it’s really been bugging me so it felt nice to hit a couple big ones and kind of get the monkey off my back, so to speak,” Hahn said. “We haven’t really shot it well from three at all this year but Coach Sykes says we have to keep shooting it with confidence, it’s going to fall and as long as we keep defending we’re going to keep winning.”
Doane slipped to 1-7 overall and winless in five GPAC games, but trailed the Mustangs only 28-27 at halftime after Morningside shot 2-for-15 from the arc. Trace Tupper, a hulking 6-foot-10 post, was a handful with 17 points and 10 rebounds and the Tigers shot 54.8 percent (23 of 42) from the field.
Morningside had four players in double figures, led by Hahn with 15 points. Alex Borchers added 14 points, Tyler Borchers 12 and Zach Imig 10.
A 3-pointer by Doane’s Zach Witters tied it at 35-35 just over three minutes into the second half. Morningside then went on a 9-0 run but Witters hit another three and when Nick Kornieck connected for a 3-pointer, the Tigers were within 46-43 with just under 13 minutes remaining.
Morningside was clinging to a 52-47 lead when Ben Hoskins pulled down an offensive rebound and fed Hahn, who splashed a 3-pointer. Hahn let loose from way out the next time down the floor, making it 58-47 with 8:54 left.
Doane wouldn’t go away, slicking it to 62-56 with 2:56 left, but Hahn once again nailed a 3-pointer to all but clinch the victory.
“They’re the best 1-7 team in the nation,” Sykes said. “They have all the pieces, it just have to click for them and when it does they can go for awhile. I’m just glad it didn’t happen tonight.”
Morningside plays a pair of non-conference games in the Draemel Classic at Midland this weekend, taking on No. Bellevue Saturday and Dakota State Sunday.