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MW MENS BASKETBALL: Defense sparks Bluejays

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Minnesota West's Tyler Aquallo drives in for a shot between two Dakota Wesleyan defenders during a non-conference game Tuesday night at Worthington High School.

WORTHINGTON -- Sparked by a stellar first-half team defensive performance and a 23-point effort from Tyler Aquallo Tuesday night, the Minnesota West Bluejays earned a 72-58 victory over the Dakota Wesleyan University JV Tigers in a non-conference men's college basketball game at Worthington High School.

Minnesota West, which improved to 4-1 with the win, bolted out of the gate on a 13-3 run and led from the start to finish. Aquallo and Orie Brown combined to sink a trio of 3-pointers in that quick 10-point burst, as the Bluejays took command early in the first half.

"Overall, this was a good win for us," Minnesota West head coach Justin Heckenlaible said after the game. "I'm proud of our defensive effort and thought that our execution was very good on that end of the floor. We did struggle a little bit offensively, but Tyler had a real nice game to kind of lead the way for us."

Aquallo's driving assist to Mitch Olson (11 points) for a bucket inside was followed by a shot from the right elbow by Mitch Hopkins (15 points), as the Bluejays were up 4-0 just a minute into the game.

Aqaullo then buried a pair of long 3-pointers, while Brown also connected from beyond the arc to make it a 13-3 cushion with 16 minutes and two seconds showing on the clock -- forcing an early Tigers' timeout.

DWU answered with a 9-2 run to pull within three (15-12), but Hopkins scored twice in the paint after Olson scored on a cut down the lane to increase Minnesota West's lead to 21-12 at the 10:37 mark.

Aqaullo's pull-up jumper from right wing made it 23-14 a bit later, while the Bluejays also received first-half offensive production from Jackson Seitzinger and A.J. Ourada.

Aquallo's third 3-pointer of the first half gave Minnesota West a 35-23 lead, and the Bluejays carried a 37-24 advantage into the locker room.

"We didn't shoot particularly well, but our defensive intensity was very good," Heckenlaible said. "That definitely helped us take control in the first half, and we basically just maintained the lead in the second half."

The second half was evenly-played for the most part. DWU's Kyle Mathis scored 12 of his team-best 16 points after intermission, as the Tigers stayed within striking distance.

DWU was actually within three (38-35), starting the second half on an 11-1 surge. Adam Fink (13 points) meshed a long 3-pointer from the top of key in the middle of the 10-point run.

Minnesota West gradually opened things up again and led 55-45 after a 3-point play by Aquallo with 9:39 remaining. Brown, Luke Roddy and Cody Harris also scored to help the Bluejays regain control.

DWU came back a bit later and was down by just four (57-53), but a 3-pointer by Aquallo and back-to-back baskets inside by Olson helped Minnesota West extend the gap to 66-55 with 3:02 left.

Aquallo then went 6-for-7 from the free-throw line in the final 2 minutes.




DAKOTA WESLEYAN JV: Fink 2-2-3-13, Gibson 0-2-0-4, Eckstaine 0-0-3-3, Geraets 1-1-3-8, Niewenhuis 1-1-2-7, Alford 0-1-1-3, Mathis 0-5-6-16, Lenocker 0-2-0-4. Totals: 4-14-18-58.

MINNESOTA WEST(4-1): Roddy 0-1-0-2, Seitzinger 0-2-0-4, Ourada 0-2-4-8, Olson 0-5-1-11, Brown 1-1-2-7, Aquallo 4-2-7-23, Hopkins 0-7-1-15, Harris 0-1-0-2. Totals: 5-21-15-72.

DWU JV 24 34 -- 58

MW 37 35 -- 72