The Simpson men's basketball team has a chance to clinch a berth in the Iowa Conference Tournament when it travels to Luther on Wednesday, Feb. 10 at the Regents Center. To do so, the Storm will have to snap an eight-game road losing streak in the series. The game will be telecasted on KCRG 9.2
Matchup: Simpson (13-8, 6-4) at Luther (5-16, 4-6)
Date: Saturday, Feb. 6
Time: 8 p.m.
Location: Regents Center - Decorah, Iowa
Last time out
Sam Amsbaugh scored 14 of 21 points in the second half, including the go-ahead putback with 90 seconds left, and Simpson made key defensive plays down the stretch to beat Central 79-73 on Saturday. Amsbaugh went 4-for-6 from the field in the second half and Dillon Gretzky battled through a bloody left eye brow to score 19 points for the Storm, who snapped a two-game losing streak and completed a season-sweep of their biggest rival.
A look at Luther
The Norse started Iowa Conference play slowly, going 2-4 in the first six games. Since then Luther has gone 2-2 and is in the thick of the conference tournament race. Nathan Meyer has sparked Luther's resurgence, averaging 21.5 points over the last two games after scoring less than 10 a game to start the conference season. The 6-3 senior guard is coming off a season-high 26-point effort in Saturday's 84-70 win over Buena Vista. The Norse average an IIAC-low 67.8 points per game.
The all-time series
Wednesday marks the 152nd meeting in a series that dates back to the 1923-24 season. Simpson is 69-82 all-time against Luther. Luther has won 13 of the last 15 in the series, but Simpson snapped a three-game losing streak with a 76-59 victory on Saturday, Jan. 23 in Indianola. The Norse have won the last eight games against Simpson in Decorah dating back to 2008.
TOP 5 STORM STORYLINES
1. A chance to clinch
From day one of first-year head coach Brad Bjorkgren's tenure, the goal for the season has been to qualify for the Iowa Conference Tournament, something the Storm haven't been able to do since 2013. Now, that goal is very much within reach. Currently tied for second in the Iowa Conference standings with Loras at 6-4 in league play, a win Wednesday coupled with losses by both Buena Vista and Coe would lock up a spot in the six-team tournament for the Storm.
2. Impressive first act
First-year head coach Brad Bjorkgren has led Simpson to a seven-game turnaround in 2015-16, as the Storm sit at 13-8 overall after managing just six wins last season. Bjorkgren's 13 wins are the most by a first-year coach at Simpson since 1983 and are two shy of tying the school record set by Harry Workman, who's 1926-27 squad won 15 games. Denny Deardon (1982-83) and Cecil Cushman (1921-22) each led their squads to 13 wins in their rookie season.
3. As Gretzky goes ...
The play of senior guard Dillon Gretzky has been a strong determining factor in Simpson's wins and losses this season. When Gretzky scores 15 points or more, the Storm are 5-1 in Iowa Conference play, the lone loss coming in a 16-point effort against Wartburg on Feb. 3. Simpson is just 1-3 when Gretzky fails to get to 15, the lone win coming against Coe on Jan. 9 when he was held to 10 points. Gretzky has reached double figures in each conference game this season, the only Simpson player to do so.
4. Don't call it a comeback
Simpson doesn't panic when it gets behind. The Storm have trailed at some point in 10 of their 13 wins in 2015-16, and have overcome deficits of eight or more five times. In the last two wins - both against Central - Simpson trailed by eight or more in the second half. Simpson was down by 12 with 19:37 to play before winning 86-78 on Jan. 27 and trailed by eight with 5:18 left before posting a 79-73 win last Saturday.
5. Taking care of the ball
A big reason for Simpson's success in 2015-16 has been its ability to commit fewer turnovers than its opponents. Simpson has turned it over fewer times than its opponent in all but one game this season, its 74-60 loss at Dubuque last Saturday. The Storm own one of the top turnover margins in all of Division III at +4.8, 12th-best in the country and tops in the Iowa Conference.
Brad Bjorkgren is in his first season as head coach of the Storm. The Simpson alum coached Urbandale High School for 27 seasons, winning nearly 400 games, nine conference championships and appearing in seven Class 4A State Tournaments.
Simpson hosts Coe on Saturday, Feb. 13 for Senior Day.