Minus five starters from a year ago, the Central College men's basketball team pulled off something even last season's Iowa Conference champions failed to achieve, stunning preseason favorite Loras College on the road Wednesday night, 74-64.
It's Central's first victory over the Duhawks at Dubuque since a 75-63 triumph Feb. 21, 1992, snapping a 19-game streak.
Tabbed to finish sixth in the league race, the Dutch (3-3) scored the upset in the conference season opener behind a career-high 25 points from senior guard Demarco Turner. Turner hit 10 of 14 shots, including 4-of-6 3-pointers.
Central burst out of the blocks with a 3-point bucket by guard Brock Caves and never trailed. The Dutch ended the opening half with a Turner 3-pointer and a surprising 37-23 lead at the break. Central stretched the lead to 51-30 with 13:10 left before Loras finally began to peck away. The Duhawks used a 9-2 spree to close to 62-57 with 4:32 left, but Central retained its poise and the lead the rest of the way.
Forward James Chapline had 14 points while forward Chris Lehmann added 10 with a team-high five rebounds. Caves finished with nine points.
Even after suffering through an 80-53 blowout loss at Concordia-Moorhead (Minn.) Saturday, coach Mike Boschee thought the Dutch were capable of making some noise as they opened defense of their title.
"The guys have been getting better," Boschee said. "You couldn't tell from the Concordia game, but every day in practice there has been improvement. Tonight we came out and hit some shots and we defended really well in the first half. And we defended well for the first 10 minutes of the second half."
The Dutch were prepared for a Loras comeback bid.
"At halftime we said whatever happened, we have to continue to be the aggressor and I felt like we were," Boschee said. "We were able to counter their runs with some big plays of our own."
Loras outshot the Dutch shot from the floor 51.1 percent to 47.3 percent, outrebounded Central 30-29 and even attempted six more free throws. But Central forced 18 Loras turnovers.
"We got a lot of contributions," Boschee said. "Everybody did a nice job of just doing what they can do. We played with good energy throughout the game and we had good team spirit, which I don't think we've always had this year.
"When you have a good attitude, play well together and play for each other, good things usually happen."
Wartburg College visits for a women's-men's doubleheader Saturday at P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium, with the women's contest tipping off at 2 p.m. and the men following at 4 p.m. The Knights, tabbed to finish third in the conference, are 3-3 overall and 0-1 in the league following a 72-71 home court loss to Cornell College Wednesday night.
A video webcast and live stats for both games can be accessed through the Central athletics website at www.central.edu/athletics.