An oft-cited sports cliche holds that it's tough to beat a team twice in one season.
Both Minot State University basketball teams are hoping to do just that when they visit in-state rival University of Mary tonight. And both are looking to get back to their winning ways after recent rough patches.
The Beaver women lost two road games this weekend after starting 7-0. The MSU men are on a four-game skid after opening with five straight wins.
Both squads desperately want to end 2013 on a positive note before a two-week holiday layoff.
"Especially being the last game before break, it'd be great to get back on the winning track," MSU men's coach Matt Murken said. "I'm sure they're saying the same thing. ... It's a game where both teams need a win and both will be laying everything out there to kind of finish off strong."
The MSU men (5-4 overall, 1-4 Northern Sun) pulled out a 97-86 overtime victory when Mary visited on Nov. 30 on the strength of 40-for-46 shooting from the free-throw line. Both teams hurt each other with dribble penetration and MSU won simply because it outshot the Marauders (2-8, 0-5) at the free-throw line.
Murken said containing Mary's athletic ballhandlers will be the main priority for the Beavers, who have struggled defensively of late. St. Cloud State and Minnesota Duluth each shot 52 percent this weekend in wins over MSU.
"We quit playing with that edge on the defensive end over the last two weeks," Murken said. "Part of that's my fault for not pushing everybody hard enough in practice when we got a little nicked up. We're close to having everybody back and we had a good practice (Monday). We feel like we're back on the right track in terms of the flat-out intensity we need to have to win."
Likewise, the MSU women lost their last two games largely because of subpar defense. The Beavers (7-2, 3-2) entered the weekend with the best field-goal percentage defense in the conference, but allowed SCSU and Duluth to shoot a combined 24-for-44 (55 percent) from 3-point range.
"Some of it was teams shooting well ... but realistically, it's not real hard to make shots when the other team's standing with their hands at their waist or down by their knees," MSU coach Sheila Green Gerding said. "That was something that was really evident to us. We did nothing to really disrupt their flow offensively."
Green Gerding said her team had a solid film session Monday and better focus in Tuesday's practice. She said the Beavers will need to be at their best to slow down Mary (5-3, 3-2), a team Green Gerding described as "very high-powered offensively."
Senior post Linda Murray averages a double-double (19.0 ppg, 10.3 rpg) and sophomore wing Brittney Dietz scores 16 points per contest. Dietz connected on 5 of 6 treys in a 79-72 loss to MSU on Nov. 30 and scored a game-high 24 points.
"They've got good inside play, they've got people that can create off the dribble and they've got three outstanding 3-point shooters so they're a dangerous team," Green Gerding said. "You gotta slow 'em down and hope that they miss some shots and you don't give them second opportunities. Hopefully we can match that or better it on the other end."
Daniel Allar covers Minot State University athletics. Follow him on Twitter @DAllar_MDN.