Nothing to lose: Jimmies open NAIA today vs. No. 2-ranked WolvesIn the Jimmies’ approach to today’s first-round game at the NAIA, several well-worn sports clichés would work. Playing with house money. Nothing to lose. No pressure.
By: By Dave Selvig, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
In the Jimmies’ approach to today’s first-round game at the NAIA, several well-worn sports clichés would work.
Playing with house money. Nothing to lose. No pressure.
All of those work for Jamestown College, which takes a 15-18 record into today’s noon tip off against No. 2-ranked Cardinal Stritch of Wisconsin in Point Lookout, Mo.
That’s not to say the Jimmies are lax in their approach. But a month ago this run did not seem likely, so there’s no reason to start tightening the screws now.
“We’ve really been enjoying the experience of getting to the national tournament. I think our guys earned the right to have fun, but at the same time, we’re really looking forward to the game,” said coach Justin Wieck. “On paper, we’re the underdog, but we’ve shown throughout the course of the season that we can beat good teams and this is another opportunity for us to prove it.”
Cardinal Stritch boasts a 30-3 record. Clearly it expected to be good. Why else would it have opened the season playing in South Bend against Notre Dame, which has spent most of the season as a ranked D-I team. The Wolves hung around in that November game before falling to the Fighting Irish. The Wolves have only lost to ranked teams, one each in NAIA Division I, NAIA Division II and another against an NCAA D-III team.
“They’re good. It didn’t take long to realize that watching them on tape,” Wieck said. “They’re big, athletic. We’ll need to turn it into a half-court game and hopefully we get to the 5- or 6-minute mark of the second half and it’s a close game and see what happens.”
The Wolves are led by Division I transfer Derek Semensas (16 ppg) and post man Darren Moore (15 ppg). Semensas is in his second season after starting his career at Wisconsin-Green Bay. Moore was a teammate of JC point guard Breshion Tucker last season at NCAA Division II Wayne State of Nebraska.
Tucker’s improved play has been key in the Jimmies’ late-season resurgence. Mark Hoge (18 ppg) and Davon Thomas (15 ppg) have given the Jimmies one of the top 1-2 punches in the NAIA, but getting points from other places has been key.
“Some of our younger guys have taken a pretty big step forward the last couple of weeks,” Wieck said. “The encouraging thing is they did that against some quality teams.”
Despite some rocky stretches, Wieck was confident his team would eventually put things together. Considering Wieck got the job late summer and had no experience with any of the players, bumps were inevitable. Yet they peaked at the right time and are back at nationals for the second straight year.
“I didn’t recruit any of these guys, but they’ve tried really hard to take our message and our style of play and build something,” Wieck said. “All the credit goes to our players. It’s been a great group to coach.”
Senior Jared Sutherland’s sprained left ankle has been slow to come around. He practiced Tuesday and will give it a go today. … The Wolves score 75 ppg and only give up 59. … Cardinal Stritch advanced to the Elite 8 at nationals last season in the school’s 10th appearance in the tournament. … Jamestown College has gone nine times, but has not won a game since 2004.
Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached at (701) 952-8460 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org