16 Iowa Conference championships
DECORAH—A stifling defensive effort let the Central College men’s basketball team post its second road win in four days and maintain a narrow lead in the Iowa Conference race, shutting down Luther College 59-43 Saturday.
The Dutch limited Luther to just 32.7 percent shooting, including 2-of-13 from 3-point range, and used a dominating 23-4 second-half run to break the game open.
“Anytime you play Luther, you know it’s going to be a grind-it-out, physical type of game,” coach Mike Boschee said. “I thought we did a good job of matching their intensity on their home court and played a strong, physical game.”
Central is 18-4 overall and 11-2 in league play with three regular-season games remaining. It’s Central’s highest season wins total since the 1979-80 league champs finished 18-8.
Guard Miguel Ley (senior, San Antonio, Texas, Judson HS) had a game-high 14 points while guard/forward Mark Holan (senior, Fontanelle, Nodaway Valley HS) added 11 points and forward Loren Liming (senior, Ames, Gilbert HS) had 10 points and five rebounds. Center Zach Cooper (senior, Johnston) had a game-high seven rebounds as Central held a 39-31 advantage on the glass.
The Dutch shot 42.9 percent from the field, including 55.9 percent from 3-point range (5-of-9).
Central was up 28-21 at intermission. But after Luther (10-10 overall, 4-8 conference) scored the final four points of the first half, the Norse rattled off the first seven points of the second half, making it 30-28 Central with 17:45 left. Luther was down 34-32 with the ball, but then the Dutch went on their 23-4 burst to make it 57-36 and assert firm control.
“We were getting decent looks but weren’t converting,” Boschee said. “But then we used a little more pressure defensively. We got some stops and that allowed us to get out and go in transition. Things got a little easier from there.”
Next up is another pivotal game, as second-place Loras College visits P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium Wednesday in a league doubleheader. The women’s game starts at 6 p.m. with the men’s game at 8 p.m. A video Webcast of both games will be available through the Central athletics Web site at www.central.edu/athletics.
Loras entered Saturday evening’s game at Buena Vista Univ. just a game behind Central in the loss column of the league standings at 8-3 and has one of the conference’s hottest clubs, winning eight of its last nine games, including the past five. The Duhawks, 13-7 overall, outmuscled Central 86-77 at Dubuque Jan. 21.
But Boschee said the Dutch aren’t focusing on the opponent or the league standings.
“It’s the biggest game of the season because it’s our next game,” he said. “That’s the mentality we try to have every game. We’ll play as well as we can and get after it.”