Ryan Garver might have a bad right knee and a bad left ankle, but he had a good game Saturday against Wartburg.
The 6-foot-3 senior scored 24 points, dished out 11 assists and grabbed seven rebounds to pace the top-ranked Nebraska Wesleyan men’s basketball team to an 89-73 victory at Snyder Arena. NWU improves to 15-0 and 6-0 in American Rivers Conference play while running its nation-leading winning streak to 28 straight games.
The former Lincoln Northeast all-stater had been dealing with his sprained ankle for almost a month before he suffered a deep bone bruise on his knee Wednesday at Simpson. Garver was unable to practice Thursday and was limited at Friday’s workout.
“It seems like he’s perpetually injured and he still perpetually gives us great games even though he’s hurt,” NWU coach Dale Wellman said. “Scoring, rebounding, handing out assists, Garv is a big part of our offense, and he was again today.”
Garver was 10-of-15 from the field, scoring on drives to the basket despite not being 100 percent. His 11 assists — some of which were kick-outs to the perimeter — were a big part of Cooper Cook’s game-high 28 points as the 6-5 senior was 6-of-10 from beyond the three-point arc.
“Coop was hot from three and other guys were hitting buckets today,” Garver said, explaining his assist total. “I didn’t know how much I’d be able to do and how effective I’d be, but when I got out there, I felt decent enough to give it a full go.
“Once the game started and adrenaline took over, it felt pretty good,” added Garver, who now has 999 points in the NWU career.
Saturday also marked the return of 6-4 junior All-American guard and leading scorer Nate Schimonitz to the lineup after sitting out the previous two games with a hamstring injury. Schimonitz was limited to five points in 26 minutes, all coming in the second half.
“Mentally it really helps us having him back,” Garver said. “We know physically he wasn’t what he normally is. He just started practicing a couple days ago and it will take him awhile to get back in the swing of things. We know eventually he’ll be back at 100 percent and he’ll hit tough shots for us. That gives us a lot of confidence moving forward.”
Schimonitz converted a three-point play during the Prairie Wolves’ 10-0 spurt that took less than two minutes to start the second half which expanded a 43-40 halftime lead to 13 points. That margin swelled to as many as 23 points (89-66) with under two minutes left.
Wartburg (9-6, 3-3) ended the half on a 14-3 run, led by guard Cam Kickbush, who hit seven three-pointers for 21 points in the first 20 minutes. Kickbush finished with a team-high 27.
NWU coach Dale Wellman challenged both Schimonitz and his team in general at halftime, and he got results from both.
“We were a little complacent on the defensive end at the end of the half, and we told them that they had to pick up the intensity (in the second half),” Wellman said. “Once we got some stops, we were able to get out in transition, shoot some rhythm threes and get going offensively.
“The first half Schim was a little tentative driving to the basket and doing the things he normally does, but he was more aggressive the second half,” Wellman added. “For him to get as many minutes as he got (26) and not re-injure it (the hamstring) has to be a real confidence boost for him.”