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Heath Hotzler, Published January 25 2008

Cobbers push to playoffs

The Concordia men’s basketball team is making a serious push for the playoffs.

Only a year removed from a 4-21 season, the Cobbers have clawed their way into the top tier of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

With nine games remaining, Concordia is tied for second in the league with a 7-4 record.

How did this turnaround happen?

“We were so close in games last year,” junior guard Cody Dyshaw said. “We lost our first nine games last year, but three were in overtime. We just didn’t know how to win games.”

The Cobbers have improved in almost every way this season. They have more chemistry, more offensive firepower, more patience and more poise.

The biggest reason for the success could be Concordia’s defensive effort. The Cobbers are allowing 10 fewer points per game than last season.

Add key contributions from freshmen Erik Lien (Moorhead), Darrin Olmscheid (Buffalo) and Karl Olson (Buffalo) and it’s clear Concordia could be just beginning its run.

“(The freshmen) had to step into some big roles,” said senior forward Luke Linz, who leads the team with 17 points per game. “It’s usually hard to know how freshmen are going to respond, and how quickly they will compete. But they are playing like veterans.”

How good are the Cobbers’ chances of making their first postseason appearance since 2004-05?

Concordia has a 6-3 record this season against its remaining opponents.

At that pace, the Cobbers are a lock.

Concordia likely could finish 4-5 down the stretch and sneak into the six-team MIAC playoffs.

Last season, St. Olaf snuck into the postseason with a 9-11 league record.

But the Cobbers are thinking bigger.

How about a home playoff game? What about sending coach Duane Siverson, who announced he will resign at the end of the season, out in style? How about making sure the program is back on solid ground for the next coach?

All of it is within reach.

Odds and ends

North Dakota State College of Science sophomore forward James Eayrs leads the Mon-Dak Conference with 24.1 points per game. Eayrs is headed to NCAA Division I Wisconsin-Milwaukee next season. … The Minnesota State University Moorhead wrestling team leaped from No. 17 to No. 7 in the latest Division II coaches poll. … The MSUM men’s basketball team has been hit hard by a recent rash of injuries. Junior Justyn Burgess hyper-extended a knee during the Dragons’ game against Wayne State last week, senior Craig Williams suffered a sprained ankle last week and junior Jamal O’Neal has been bothered by a foot injury. The Dragons’ leading scorer with 14.7 points per game, Burgess could be out for several weeks. Williams and O’Neal will continue to play. … Former Fargo North High standout Tyler Koenig is averaging 4.5 points and 3.3 rebounds per game for the University of North Dakota men’s basketball team.

Readers can reach Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562 or hhotzler@forumcomm.com. Hotzler’s small college blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com