NIU men’s basketball

DUNBAR, Wis. – Northland International University, ranked second in the National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association Division 2 national poll, will take a 4-0 regional record into men’s basketball games this week with Maranatha Baptist and Grace Bible.

“If we win both those games we are regular season champions,” NIU Coach Peter Wehry said.

NIU hosts Maranatha at 7:30 tonight and four-time defending national champion Grace Bible at 7 p.m. Friday. The Pioneers next week head to Grace Bible and Grand Rapids, Mich., for the Midwest Regional tournament.

Ohio Christian leads this week’s NCCAA Division 2 rankings, with the Pioneers (15-8) climbing from fourth to second. Kuyper College of Grand Rapids, guided by former Florence coach Stan Jesky, received honorable mention.

“This NIU team is probably the best that I have had the privilege to coach here in my six years,” Wehry said. “We have really solid guard play. Our bigs get better every day and our bench really contributes with four guys getting a lot of minutes off the bench.”

According to the latest NIU statistics, four players average points in double figures – Micah Baines of Wilson, NC, 15.8; Josh Conover of Reading, Pa., 12.4; 6-foot-5 Kyle Gardner of Gilbert, Ariz., 12.2, and 6-5 Anthony Lewis of Wilson, 12.2.

Baines and Conover lead the Pioneers in assists while Gardner is the top rebounder.

NIU is coming off a 71-58 loss to Gogebic Community College. The Samsons, with former North Central star Bryce Bilski making an impact, has hopes of reaching the JUCO national tournament.

“We’re actually a real good team, but Gogebic is better,” Wehry said after the loss to Gogebic. “That’s the best team we’ve seen this year. They play very well together.”