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Eric Peterson, Published February 16 2012

Red hot dragons on a roll after slow start

MOORHEAD – Dragons head coach Karla Nelson used a simple analogy to explain her philosophy to navigating a season.

“I’m a big believer in continuing to push the boulder,” Nelson said. “If you quit pushing the boulder, you are going to get rolled over on.”

Minnesota State Moorhead looked like it was about to get crunched in early January.

The Dragons had lost six consecutive games and were in 13th in the 14-team Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference women’s basketball standings. MSUM was 1-7 in the league and 4-8 overall at that point.

“I just quit looking at our record,” Nelson said. “I think if I was a younger coach I would have probably panicked, but I certainly didn’t panic.”

A little more than a month later, the Dragons have the boulder rolling downhill. MSUM is one of the hottest teams in the league, having won seven consecutive game and 9 of its past 10.

The Dragons (13-9, 10-8 NSIC) are tied for sixth place in the league and are a game and a half out of third place. MSUM went from wondering if it would make the 8-team NSIC tournament to having a chance to finish with a top-four seed and host a first-round game in the league tournament.

“Our chemistry got so much better and we just got used to playing with each other,” said MSUM senior Angie Jetvig, who leads the team with 17.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.

MSUM is averaging 75.2 points per game during its recent hot streak. That’s six more the overall season average of 69 points per game. The Dragons have won shootouts, scoring more than 90 points twice, they’ve won defensive battles and even a triple overtime game.

“It really speaks volumes that you can win in different ways,” Nelson said. “I guess I should take comfort in that.”

The Dragons have four games remaining in the regular season, including games against league-leader Wayne State (ranked No. 3 in NCAA Division II) and second-place Augustana (ranked No. 23).

MSUM plays at Winona State at 6 tonight. WSU (15-9, 10-8) and the Dragons are tied for sixth in the league.

“There is nobody that thought this is where the Dragons would be today,” Nelson said. “People are probably hearing some footsteps coming from northern Minnesota. I think that’s awesome. But we still have a lot of work to do.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com