The Ottawa University men’s basketball team is accomplishing things that have never been done before in the program’s history.
The Braves are ranked No. 7 in the NAIA Division II poll, which is the highest ever for the program. Ottawa got off to a 16-1 start, the best in decades.
Ottawa added another chapter to this season Saturday in its 100-77 victory over Southwestern at Wilson Field House. It is the first time in a couple decades Ottawa has swept Southwestern in a season.
Ottawa coach Aaron Siebenthall said that is a pretty nice milestone.
“Playing at their place is always difficult,” he said. “It is a great place to play. More than that, they have been one of the top three teams for a long, long time. This is a (program) we want to do things like. For us to get both games, it is important. It gets our program going the way we need it to go.”
The win also was important as the Braves snapped a two-game skid.
“This was an important game for us for a lot of reasons,” Siebenthall said. “Mostly for our mindset and our confidence. It was important for us to come out here and play as well as we could. If we get the win, as a result, that is great.”
Ottawa returned to form with its defensive intensity and ball movement.
“Our assist numbers went back up,” Siebenthall said. “The guys were moving the ball again. We had good focus and energy on the defensive end. Our defense was really locked in. Our effort and intensity was there. The first half we really rebounded it. It was a complete game by our guys. We stayed the course and got a good win out of it.”
Southwestern was one of the hottest teams coming into Saturday, riding a six-game winning streak.
“That is a good basketball team we played,” Siebenthall said. “They are going to be fighting for the conference title or a good seed in the tournament. We knew they would make some runs and they did. We took some of their best punches and came back at them. A lot of the time we were the tougher team. We got stops and boards when we needed to.”
Siebenthall said the players were ready to break out of the funk.
“Our preparation was a lot more mental than anything else,” he said. “Making a concerted effort to get back to the way we played. You are rolling there for awhile and you have a couple of blips in the road, you start questioning some things. You can’t do that. We are going to get everybody’s best.”
One of the reasons for this breakout season is the chemistry of the Braves.
“These guys enjoy being around each other,” Siebenthall said. “It is a very unselfish team. They don’t care who gets the credit or scores the most points. They care about us winning. We have had eight different guys lead us in scoring this year. One of them is not Jaquan Daniels, who is our third-leading scorer.”
Senior Ryan Haskins tossed in a career-high 30 points on 12-of-18 shooting, including hitting four treys.
“Ryan is one of our leaders,” Siebenthall said. “We have developed a lot of things around him. He is so hard to guard because he can shoot the ball so well. He gets it off quick. When guys run at him, he can (drive it). Ryan is the hardest worker in our program. He is the ultimate team guy. He does not care if he scores 10 or 30 as long we get the win. He’s the guy in our program, if he is feeling it, we are going to get him the ball. He has the ultimate green light. It was nice to see him do well and our guys be happy for him as well.”
Ottawa (17-3, 11-3) plays 8 p.m. Thursday at home against Bethany. This is the annual Coaches Vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers Week.