Saturday evening turned out to be a night that will be a special one in the eyes of Delta State University men’s basketball coach Mike Nienaber.
Nienaber earned his 600th career win as college basketball head coach as the Statesmen defeated the University of West Georgia Wolves 84-74 in overtime in Gulf South Conference action here at the Lloyd Clark Court at the Walter Sillers Coliseum.
This year marks Nienanber’s first year as head coach of the Statesmen and 37th overall as a collegiate head basketball coach. The Statesmen improved to 7-6 with a 3-2 mark in the conference, while the Wolves fell to 4-9 with a 2-3 conference record.
The Statesmen led a 35-22 at halftime and led 48-31 with 15:55 left in the contest. The Wolves battled back and were able to tie the game 70-70 at the end of regulation. Delta State produced in a big way in the overtime period by shooting 66.7 percent (4-of-6) from the floor and 1.000 percent (6-of-6) at the free-throw line. DSU didn’t turn the ball over in the overtime period, while West Georgia had four turnovers.
After the game, Nienaber was more relieved to beat the Wolves than earning his 600th win.
“We made it memorable, didn’t we,” Nienaber said. “We made it more memorable than it should have been. Thankfully, we survived. Thankfully, we survived.”
Nienaber was thankful for the longevity of his coaching career.
“You have to be doing this a long time to get that many,” Nienaber said. “There are so many people. I’ve had a little time to reflect. I’ve been trying not to talk about it. I didn’t want the kids thinking about it. I didn’t want anybody thinking about it until it was done, because I’ve seen it happen with other coaches. You have all the anticipations with that hundredth and this hundredth, and then you get in a slump. I was fearful of that, but it was good to get it. Right now, the thing I’m excited about it the progress this team is making.”
For the game, DSU shot 50.9 percent (29-of-57), including 56.3 percent (9-of-16) from 3-point land. The Statesmen shot an impressive 85 percent (17-of-20) from the free-throw line and dished out 21 assists to only 11 turnovers. West Georgia shot 38-percent (27-of-71) from the floor, including 32.3 percent (10-of-31) from 3-point range. The Wolves shot 62.5 percent (10-of-16) from the free-throw line and dished out 14 assists and committed 16 turnovers.
Airen Brooks led the Statesmen as he scored 22 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. Keyshaun Street tallied 18 points and dished eight assists with four rebounds; Cameron Burkett scored 17 points with six rebounds and five assists and Anderson McCoy scored 16 points with four rebounds, four assists and two steals to chip in for the Statesmen.
The Statesmen will return to action on Thursday when they travel to Pensacola, Fla. to play the University of West Florida Argonauts in a GSC showdown at 7:30 p.m.