For Dubuque, only one way in
|Miles Hookstead made more of
a name for himself on the football field, but came up big for
Dubuque in the IIAC title game.
Dubuque athletics file photo
The University of Dubuque men's basketball team knew the only way it was going to make the NCAA tournament was to earn the automatic qualifier by winning the Iowa Conference tournament.
The Spartans did that and now have the opportunity to make noise on a national level as it faces off against defending national champion UW-Whitewater on Saturday at 3 p.m. in the opening round. It's the Spartans’ first appearance to the tournament since 1990.
"We can't be in awe of Whitewater," Spartans guard Chris Frazier said.
Dubuque hasn't feared anyone for the majority of February. Since a 68-60 loss to Coe on Feb. 2, the Spartans owned February, going 7-1, including a seven-game win streak.
"We are probably playing our best basketball at the end of the season," Spartans coach Rob Sieverding said. "You always want to be playing your best basketball down the stretch."
After finishing third in the conference, the Spartans knew they would have to win the tournament. Dubuque responded in a 73-60 win over Wartburg Feb. 24. Post player Miles Hookstead had his best game as he scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to spark the Spartans. Normally scoring isn't Hookstead's main forte as he averages just 5.3 points per game.
Once I hit a jump shot early in the game, I knew I was going to have a good game," Hookstead said. "It starts with defense. Once you make some stops, it gets you hungry to do pretty well."
Sieverding noted that the defensive effort Hookstead, who also played tight end on the Spartans’ football team, put forth against Wartburg’s center was just as important as his offensive prowess.
"It was probably the best game of his four-year career," Sieverding said. "I was impressed with the job he did on Eddie Diemer. He was able to do that without us sending a lot of help."
Hookstead, who grew up in Whitewater, knows what the Warhawks did last year and said it has no bearing on the current matchup. "We're both 0-0," he said. "If we want to get to the top, we have to take out the top. It just comes down to the defensive end. We just have to worry about defense and control what we do. If we do what we can do, we're hard to beat."
The Spartans’ focus on the defensive end shows up in the stat sheet as well. Dubuque has 58 less turnovers this season than its opponents, 37 more steals per game and eight more blocks. Sieverding, who has been with the program for 10 years said this is the best defensive team he has ever...