SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Following a season that saw the first Dakota Wesleyan University team national championship in school history and 16 program records broken, the 2018-19 DWU women's basketball team came into the season with high expectations. DWU exceeded those expectations as they spent the entire year in the top five of the NAIA Division II Top-25 Poll.
With senior leadership, experienced upperclassman players and the winningest coach in program history, the Tigers fought through a tough Great Plains Athletic Conference schedule and held the No. 1 spot in the country for six weeks. DWU travels to the NAIA National Tournament for the fourth consecutive season with a record of 28-5. The Tigers started the season ranked second in the NAIA Division II, winning their first 13 games and climbing to the No. 1 spot in the polls. Following last season's five national tournament wins and the 13 victories to begin this season, DWU broke the program mark for most consecutive wins with 18 that was previously held by the 2001-02 team.
The Tigers held the No. 1 ranking for 42 straight days, winning 19 of their first 20 games with the lone loss coming to then-No. 3 Concordia University. Just past the midway point of the season, DWU dropped consecutive games for the only time this season, losing to nationally ranked squads on the road in Northwestern College and Hastings College. Once again, following the losses, the Tigers finished the regular season strong, winning seven of their final eight games. DWU concluded the regular season with a GPAC record of 18-4, as they held the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament.
The Tigers handled then-No. 19 Morningside College in the first round of the GPAC Tournament with an 88-75 victory. In the semifinals, DWU hit the road and downed Northwestern College, the No. 2 team in the country, by a 75-66 final score. The Tigers played in the GPAC championship game for the fourth straight season and was pitted against Concordia for the third consecutive year. After storming back in the third quarter to take the lead, DWU was unable to prevail down the stretch as they fell to the Bulldogs 75-63. The Tigers received the GPAC Tournament runner-up berth to the national tournament, are ranked No. 3 in the national poll and earned one of four No. 1 seeds in the national tournament brackets.
As Tiger fans have become accustomed to seeing, DWU led the nation in various categories and ranked in the top-10 nationally in multiple statistics. The Tigers led the country in total rebound defense (30.0) and free-throw percentage (82.8). DWU also ranked third in field goal percentage (46.3), fifth in total scoring offense (2,624), fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.3), 10th in scoring margin (16.6) and 10th in scoring offense per game (79.5). This year's Tiger team reached multiple milestones throughout the season as DWU concluded the regular season with a 26-4 record, tying the 2001-02 team for least amount of regular-season losses in a season with four. Senior guard Rylie Osthus cracked the top-10 all-time scoring list in program history with 1,399 career points, ranking 10th. Junior guard Kynedi Cheeseman sits at 11th on the all-time scoring list with 1,375 career points, and junior forward Sarah Carr broke 1,000 career points this season and sits at 21st on the all-time list with 1,184 points.
The Tigers have four players who average double-digit scoring per game in Cheeseman, Carr, Osthus and junior forward Makaela Karst. Cheeseman leads the team with 18.5 points per game and ranks sixth in the NAIA Division II in free-throw percentage at 87.6 percent. Carr is second on the team with 17.8 points per game and ranks third nationally in free-throw percentage, shooting 89 percent. Osthus paces the Tigers with 5.3 assists and 2.0 steals per game, while ranking eighth nationally in total assists with 174 on the season and 10th in assists per game.