2014 NCAA Div. III tournament qualifier
DES MOINES—Other than the final score, coach Craig Douma liked what he saw from the Central College men’s basketball team in a 90-70 exhibition game loss at Drake University Sunday afternoon.
Despite a significant size disadvantage, the Dutch found themselves in front, 30-29 with 2:53 left in the first half. But Drake finished the half on an 8-1 spurt that turned into a 24-1 run in the first 3:35 of the second half and that ended any suspense about the game’s outcome.
Yet the Dutch didn’t back down. They were outrebounded 38-31 but had an impressive 6-0 advantage in blocked shots over the Division I Bulldogs.
With just two starters back from last year’s 10-14 club, there were plenty of new faces on the floor for Central and they showed well enough to justify some optimism. The biggest splash was made by sharpshooting off-guard Nile Eckermann (junior, Cosgrove, Clear Creek-Amana HS), whose playing time was largely limited to junior varsity games the past two seasons. But in his first collegiate start, he posted a game-high 20 points, knocking down 6 of 12 3-pointers.
Photos courtesy of Drake sports information office
“That was a great game for Nile,” Douma said. “It was a great confidence game for him. He needed that.”
The most experienced player on the Central roster played like it. Forward Matt Greenfield (senior, Huxley, Ballard HS) had 15 points, five rebounds, two assists and a block and was a steadying influence on the floor for the Dutch.
“Matt played a great game,” Douma said.
The Dutch also got 11 points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocks from forward Nana Yaw Sapon-Amoah (senior, Ghana, Des Moines Christian HS), who showed much improved offensive polish over last year as he continues to learn the game.
Less favorable was Central’s turnover total of 22.
“We didn’t execute well offensively,” Douma said. “We made a lot of bad passes. Their size provided constant pressure that made it difficult for us.”
Drake, in the debut of new coach Ray Giacoletti, a former Gonzaga assistant, put four players in double figures, with guard Gary Ricks scoring 19 points. The Bulldogs shot 45.5 percent from the floor to Central’s 44.4 percent.
Defensively the Dutch held their own. Drake’s second-half run was largely fueled from the perimeter.
“We were actually OK with the shots they took,” Douma said. “They were shooting from 15 feet and further and pretty much every shot was contested.”
Douma used his entire bench and some newcomers looked like they will make consistent contributions. Forward Kyle Newendorp (junior, Pella), a transfer from Northwestern College (Iowa), played 23 minutes while guard Sam Markham (freshman, Atlantic) played 15 and forward Colby Taylor (freshman, Creston) played 12.
“It was a great atmosphere for our kids and we appreciate Drake giving us the opportunity,” Douma said.
And Central’s performance provided a good springboard for the season. But considerable work remains with the regular season looming.
“I’m proud of our kids’ effort,” Douma said. “We battled and we showed glimpses of what we can do. We need that kind of effort when we’re not playing a Division I school, too. The Iowa Conference is going to be really tough and we need a strong effort every night.”
Central opens the 2013-14 campaign for real Nov. 15 at Monmouth College (Ill.).