WAVERLY, Iowa – No. 1 Nebraska Wesleyan won their 3rdstraight regular season conference championship as the Prairie Wolves overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to rally back to pick up an 85-82 road victory at Wartburg College on Saturday afternoon (Feb. 9) in Waverly, Iowa.
The Prairie Wolves, who move to 22-1 overall and 12-1 in conference play, claim their third straight regular season title under Coach Dale Wellman. NWU also secures the No. 1 seed in the A-R-C postseason tournament and will have home court advantage throughout the postseason tournament.
Wartburg led NWU 46-36 at halftime as they ended the half on a 11-2 run. To start the second half, the Prairie Wolves came out on a mission. The Knights still led by 11 points with 16:40 remaining, but that is when NWU went on a run.
Over the next five minutes, the top-ranked Prairie Wolves went on a 17-0 run to turn a 11 point deficit into a six point lead at 58-52 with 12:11 left in the game. NWU would build up a nine point lead at 65-56 to complete a 31-10 run.
The game then got tight in the final minutes as the Knights rallied and proved to be a tough out on their home court where they have lost only twice this season prior to Saturday. Max Smith Drahos made a layup for Wartburg to tie the game at 73-73 with 2:21 remaining.
Cooper Cook responded with a made 3-pointer on the other end to put the Prairie Wolves up by three points. Wartburg made a basket on their end to cut the lead to one point. Cook scored again on the other end to get back up by three points. NWU forced a Knight turnover and Ryan Garver was able to hit a pair of free throws to get the lead to five points.
Three Prairie Wolves scored in double figures as NWU shot 57.4 percent overall from the field. NWU was 10-21 from 3-poitn range on the game.
Jack Hiller led NWU going 5-7 from 3-point land to score 22 points. Hiller was 7-11 overall to go along with four rebounds and three blocked shots. Cooper Cook moved to 4th all-time at NWU in career scoring by putting up 16 points with nine rebounds. Cook was 3-4 from 3-point land. The other NWU player to score in double figures was Nate Schimonitz with 11 points.
Ryan Garver just missed a double-double with 11 assist and nine points to go along with four rebounds and three steals.
Cam Kickbush made 5-13 from 3-point range to lead Wartburg with 21 points.
Nebraska Wesleyan plays their final home regular season game on Wednesday night when they host Coe College on Senior Day.