By the time the Minot State University men's basketball team began playing with the sense of urgency required to beat an opponent bent on revenge, it was too late.
St. Cloud State, which lost to MSU at home earlier this month, took it to the Beavers early and earned an 11-point halftime advantage. The Huskies never relinquished the lead and left the MSU Dome on Friday night with a 65-51 victory.
After trailing by 20 early in the second half, MSU whittled the margin to seven on a couple of occasions - the last at six minutes, 40 seconds remaining. But the Huskies (14-3 overall, 10-3 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference) made the winning plays down the stretch while MSU clanked a few potential momentum-changing 3-pointers.
Minot State University sophomore Adam Randall, right, drives past St. Cloud State's Jordan Poydras during a game Friday at the MSU Dome.
"I thought we got (the deficit) to about 10, and then I thought we had four or five great looks at the basket, whether it was a 3 or a drive," MSU coach Matt Murken said. "We just didn't finish a play. We made the right plays, we just didn't finish a play."
The play of SCSU's Theo Rothstein was a big reason the Beavers played from behind the entire game. The 6-foot-6 forward scored 10 points in the game's first six minutes and 14 of his game-high 23 in the opening half.
"We didn't play the way we needed to play the first 20 minutes," Murken said. "We were fortunate to only be down 11. They took it to us, they were the more aggressive team. To our credit, we fixed it at halftime, but it was too big of a deficit to overcome against a team at the top of the league."
MSU (6-11, 5-8) strung together some defensive stops and received a scoring boost off the bench from Anthony Enriquez to make it a ballgame. The wiry 6-foot senior had all of his team-high 11 points in the second half.
"They're just a very scrappy, hard-working basketball team and they make you earn everything you get," SCSU coach Kevin Schlagel said. "During that stretch, they made some nice defensive stops on us and then converted on the other end."
MSU junior Chris East spearheaded that scrappy effort, ripping down a career-high 18 boards to help MSU win the rebounding battle 47-33. East's total was the second-highest by an NSIC player this season and the most during a conference game.
"Rebounding is my thing," said East, who is often undersized in the post at 6-6. "I don't really care about scoring. As long as I can do my part on the team, then I'm OK."
Said Murken: "I thought his energy is really what turned us around and got us going in the second half. I'd like to see him do it more consistently because he's really only scratched the surface on how good of a player he can be for us."
Down the stretch, though, the Huskies held off MSU behind the steady play of seniors Rothstein and Shaun Jensen, who chipped in 12 points. Jensen scored on a couple of drives to the basket and got to the free-throw line, and Rothstein gave SCSU an insurmountable 11-point advantage with a 3-pointer at the 2:23 mark.
MSU will look to salvage a home split against Minnesota Duluth (5-12, 3-10) tonight at 6.