After dropping a heartbreaker the night before, the Minot State University men's basketball team was looking for an early spark Saturday.
Instead, the Beavers surrendered the first 14 points and were held without a point for the opening 6 minutes, 7 seconds in an 80-67 loss to Augustana in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference game at the MSU Dome.
Sophomore Casey Schilling scored the first seven points of the contest en route to a game-high 27 and kept the Beavers on their heels early. MSU played even with the Vikings the rest of the way, but the early deficit proved too steep. The Beavers never led despite cutting Augustana's lead to as low as five.
Minot State University junior Lazar Boskovic drop steps around Augustana’s Evan Pierce on Saturday at the MSU Dome.
"That early deficit proved to be too much for us to overcome and when you play a good basketball team, there's not that much room for error," MSU coach Matt Murken said. "It's impossible to come back from something like that when you dig a big hole like that."
The Beavers (6-6 overall, 2-6 NSIC) couldn't buy a basket in the paint, hitting just one field goal from inside the 3-point arc in the first half. MSU shot 6 percent on two-pointers.
"I thought we played pretty good defense," Augustana coach Tom Billeter said. "We had a lot of intensity, but I thought they missed some pretty good shots."
Fortunately, MSU caught fire from behind the line to jumpstart its offense. The Beavers hit seven 3s in the first 20 minutes to dig themselves out of an early hole. Seniors E.J. Williams and Samuel Johnson and sophomore Dominique McDonald each hit a pair and junior Thomas Korf added another as MSU trailed 37-26 at the intermission.
"Our goal was to take what the defense gave us," Williams said. "We were getting the ball inside and our big men were finding us outside for easy 3s."
The Vikings had the magic touch from distance in the second half, matching the Beavers with seven 3s of their own. Augustana hit four treys in a row during a 14-3 run to balloon its lead to 22 - its largest of the game.
MSU responded with a 19-5 run to climb within eight with less than three minutes left. The Vikings (9-5, 6-2) held a 43-35 edge in rebounding and none were bigger than the two offensive boards they grabbed with time ticking away. Augustana ran more than a minute off the clock and finished its possession with a basket by Yuriy Malashenko to go up 10 with 1:40 left.
"They missed about three shots in that one possession," Murken said. "We seized a little bit of momentum and had them on their heels a little bit. We couldn't get that rebound to put any game pressure on them or make them feel like they were really threatened. We made that run but couldn't finish it with a rebound."
Said Williams: "It goes from playing a 35-second possession to 70 to a minute. That was a big part of today's game. We would get a stop and they would tip it out and get an extra possession. Their bigs did a good job of handling us on the inside."
Williams scored a team-high 17 points and Johnson (15), McDonald (11) and senior Chris East (11) also finished in double figures.
The Beavers travel to play Upper Iowa on Friday at 8 p.m.
Mike Kraft covers high school athletics and hockey. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.