2016 NCAA Div. III tournament qualifier
DECORAH—Defense was dominant as Central College men’s basketball team scratched out an Iowa Conference season-opening road win 41-38 at Luther College Wednesday night.
It was the first time Central has held an opponent under 40 points since a 40-38 victory over the Univ. of Dubuque Feb. 15, 1985.
Both teams shot an icy 34 percent from the floor but Central (4-1 overall, 1-0 conference) delivered the only points in the game’s final 2 minutes. Clinging to a 39-38 lead, the Dutch misfired but guard Justin Madsen (junior, Fort Dodge, St. Edmond HS) grabbed a key offensive rebound. He flipped the ball to center Zach Cooper (junior, Johnston), who found forward Loren Liming (junior, Ames, Gilbert HS) inside for a layup with 36 seconds to go. Luther (1-4 overall, 0-1 conference) then had two opportunities to score but was denied.
Central was coming off a disappointing 76-70 loss at Bethany Lutheran (Minn.) last Wednesday and Luther had just defeated Bethany Lutheran Monday 65-48. The setback fueled Central’s efforts, coach Mike Boschee said.
“Defensively we were very good,” he said. “We battled, we fought and we got tons of loose balls. That’s something we learned we have to do last week at Bethany Lutheran.”
Heading into the game the Dutch led the league in defense, allowing 52.4 points a game. But Wednesday’s offensive output was well under their 71.4-point average.
Central failed to place a player in double figures as Liming topped the charts with nine points, four rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Cooper had 10 rebounds and two blocks as the Dutch survived despite shooting just 27.6 percent in the first half. They trailed 21-20 at intermission.
Luther center Nnamdi Okolue led all scorers with 10. Central outrebounded the Norse 35-32.
“It was one of those grind-it-out games,” Boschee said. “We were tough enough to get a victory.”
Boschee knows the Dutch offense will need to pick up the pace, but he wasn’t apologizing for the victory.
“Any time you get a win on the road in the Iowa Conference, you’ve got to pat yourself on the back a little bit,” he said.
Central plays its home league opener Saturday with a women’s-men’s doubleheader against the Univ. of Dubuque. The women’s game tips off at 2 p.m. at P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium with the men following at 4 p.m. There will be a video Webcast of both games on the Central athletics Web site at www.central.edu/athletics.