The Buena Vista men's basketball team is one of three remaining unbeaten teams in Iowa Conference play this season, and one of those other two is its opponent tonight when it travels to Nebraska Wesleyan for an Iowa Conference showdown inside of Snyder Arena.
Who: Buena Vista (9-2, 2-0 IIAC) @ Nebraska Wesleyan (11-0, 2-0 IIAC)
When: Wednesday, January 3 * 6:00pm
Where: Snyder Arena * Lincoln, Neb.
Inside the Series:Tonight is the 18th meeting all-time between the two teams with Nebraska Wesleyan holding a 12-5 advantage. The two split last year's regular season meetings with each winning on each other's home court. Both games were decided by a combined 11 points. BVU's last win in Lincoln was in 2002-03 when it edged the Prairie Wolves, 65-61. The last five games played have each been decided by six points or less.
Last Time Out: The Beavers extended their current win streak to four with a commanding 88-63 win at Caltech on December 29. That followed a 30-point win against La Verne the night before. Billy Sparks drilled five three-point buckets and finished with a team-leading 15 points to lead BVU.
NWU made it 11 straight wins to start its season after a 121-103 road win at Grinnell College on December 30. The team shot 54 percent from the field and held the nation's top-scoring offense to only 34 percent. Cooper Cook and Jack Hiller each turned in double-doubles as six players scored in double figures. Cook had 22 points and 11 rebounds with Hiller turning in 23 and 12.
Sharp Shooters: The Beavers are currently ranked 20th in Division III in three-point percentage at 41.6 percent (52-of-118). Billy Sparks is 30th at 48.3 percent.
Dishin' the Rock: BVU is among the top teams in the country when it comes to sharing the ball. The team is ranked 16th in Division III in assists per game (19.0) and 19th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.35). Thomas Wisecup is seventh in that category, individually (4.50).
Swimming in Depth: BVU plays a consistent 10-man rotation with all 10 players averaging better than 11.5 minutes per game. Nine of those 10 players are also averaging better than 5.2ppg with eight of them hauling in over 2.6 rebounds per contest.
Putting Points on the Board: The Beavers enter tonight's game with an 8-1 record this season when scoring at least 80 points. They're only loss was a narrow 84-80 setback against UW-La Crosse.
About BVU: BVU is one win away from matching its season-high win streak of five after picking up a pair of convincing wins out on the west coast to close out non-conference play last week. The offense continues to gel and is ranked third in the league in scoring at better than 87 points per game. It's also shooting nearly 50 percent from the field overall and is among the top shooting three-point teams in the country (.416). David Jeffries is leading the team at 16.0ppg with Thomas Wisecup right behind at 13.5. Billy Sparks (10.5ppg) and Canyon Hopkins (10.0ppg) are also averaging in double figures. Jeffries is shooting over 55 percent from the field and is also turning in 5.5rpg and nearly 2.0spg. Wisecup averages 7.4rpg and 4.1apg.
BVU, picked to finish seventh in the IIAC this season, is off to its best overall start to a year since beginning 14-1 back in 2008-09. It comes into tonight tied atop the IIAC standings with Nebraska Wesleyan and Wartburg and has the second-longest current win streak behind only the Prairie Wolves.
About Neb. Wesleyan: The Prairie Wolves are one of the nation's top offensive teams. They're currently sixth in scoring (101.ppg), third in scoring margin (25.3), third in assists (257), second in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.74), sixth in field goal percentage (51.9) and seventh in free-throw percentage (77.9). Cooper Cook is leading the team and is fifth in the IIAC in scoring at 18.6ppg and sits seventh in field goal percentage at 50.3 percent. Deion Wells-Ross is the IIAC leader in rebounding at 10.2rpg. As a team, Nebraska Wesleyan has scored under 85 points just once this season and that came in a 78-67 win at Northwestern-St. Paul in the third game of the year. It has broken the century mark four times on the year.
NWU was picked as the favorite to win the IIAC regular season title this season after earning a share of it during its first season in the league a year ago. Cook is the league's reigning MVP and leads four starters who are back on this year's squad.
Looking Ahead: Following tonight's game, the Beavers return back to Siebens Fieldhouse to host Central College at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. NWU, meanwhile, will remain inside of Snyder Arena to play host to Luther College on Saturday.