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Eric Peterson, Published February 21 2014

Dragons men cruise past Minot State, stay alive for a top seed

MOORHEAD – Minnesota State Moorhead played stingy defense Friday night, and now has a chance to share a division championship.

MSUM limited Minot State to 38 percent shooting from the floor at Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse. That effort sparked the Dragons to an 85-55 victory in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference men’s basketball.

“I thought it was our best defensive performance of the year,” Dragons head coach Chad Walthall said. “We haven’t been a good defensive team throughout the year. We’ve had moments.”

The 55 points were a season-low total for the Beavers. The Dragons (18-7, 14-7 NSIC) have a chance to share the North Division championship, and also earn a No. 1 seed for the conference tournament. MSUM can clinch the top seed from the North with a win today against the University of Mary coupled with a Bemidji State loss at St. Cloud State. If St. Cloud State loses, the Dragons are assured the No. 2 seed. MSUM could fall to the No. 3 seed if it loses to Mary, and St. Cloud State beats Bemidji State.

“The seeding stuff doesn’t matter to us,” said Dragons senior Tarell Clark, who had 13 points and 10 rebounds against Minot State. “In order to win (the NSIC tournament), you are going to have to beat the good teams regardless.”

The Dragons were especially stingy in the first half on Friday, holding the Beavers to 25 percent (7 of 28) shooting from the field. Point guard Malik Wood scored 10 of his game-high 15 points in the first 20 minutes to help MSUM build a 33-15 halftime lead.

The Dragons scored the game’s first 10 points and never trailed. MSUM maintained a double-digit lead for the final 26 minutes.

“We came out and focused on defense and being a championship team rather than being an OK team,” said Clark, who had three steals and five assists. “We all feel like we’ve been underachieving. … All week in practice, it was all defense. We did very little offensive stuff.”

The Dragons were also efficient on offense, shooting 58 percent (28 of 48) from the field for the game. They scored 52 points in the second half, leading by as many as 35 points. MSUM shot 67 percent (16 of 24) from the floor over the final 20 minutes.

That hot shooting, however, isn’t what pleased Walthall the most.

“I thought we played defense for the full 40 (minutes),” Walthall said. “It wasn’t just five possessions of good defense and couple not.”

MINOT STATE (8-17, 4-17 NSIC): Johnson 4-10 0-0 8, East 2-6 2-2 6, Williams 1-6 0-0 2, McDonald 2-11 3-4 8, Korf 1-5 0-0 2, Randall 0-0 0-2 0, Ward-Hibbert 1-2 0-0 2, Brandt 1-1 0-0 3, Mertens 1-3 1-2 3, D. Yale 2-3 1-1 6, Gandy 5-7 0-0 13, M. Yale 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 21-56 7-11 55.

MSUM (18-7, 14-7): Clark 6-11 1-1 13, Williams 2-4 2-2 6, Wood 4-5 5-10 15, Vaughan 5-7 2-2 14, Filipek 2-5 2-3 7, Songolo 3-4 3-4 11, Nelson 0-1 0-0 0, Lien 3-5 2-2 10, Reinke 1-3 0-0 3, Figini 0-0 0-0 0, Bingham 0-0 0-0 0, Sevlie 2-3 2-3 6. Totals 28-48 19-27 85.

Half: MSUM 33, Minot 18. 3-point goals: Minot 6-17 (Johnson 0-2, Williams 0-2, McDonald 1-5, Korf 0-3, Brandt 1-1, D. Yale 1-1, Gandy 3-3), MSUM 10-20 (Clark 0-1, Williams 0-1, Wood 2-3, Vaughan 2-4, Filipek 1-2, Songolo 2-2, Nelson 0-1, Lien 2-3, Reinke 1-3). Total fouls: Minot 21, MSUM 11. Rebounds: Minot 26 (East 5), MSUM 35 (Clark 10). Assists: Minot 11 (four players with 2), MSUM 18 (Clark 5). Steals: Minot 6 (Gandy 2), MSUM 9 (Clark 3, Williams 3). Turnovers: Minot 13 (McDonald 3), MSUM 11 (Williams 3).

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com