It wasn't the streak-breaking win the Minot State University men's basketball team was hoping for, but the Beavers took plenty of positives from Saturday's loss to St. Cloud State.
MSU shot 52 percent from the field, placed five scorers in double figures and saw its defense improve markedly from the night before. But the Beavers left the MSU Dome dejected after the Huskies hit all seven of their free throws in overtime to seal an 88-85 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference win in front of 1,140 spectators.
It was far more competitive than the teams' meeting in December, when the Huskies won 97-73 in St. Cloud, Minn.
Minot State University guard Dominique McDonald draws a foul on St. Cloud State's Connor Niehaus on Saturday at the MSU Dome.
"At the end of the day you end the weekend 0-2, which nobody's happy with, but if you take a step back and think, 'Can we consistently get better?', we definitely did that this weekend," said MSU coach Matt Murken, whose team lost its 10th game in 11 tries. "We've gotta be tough enough and mature enough to focus on that and focus on continuing to get better regardless of if it's a 'W' on an 'L'."
MSU senior guard E.J. Williams drove the length of the court and made a contested layup to tie the game at 72 at the end of regulation, but the Huskies (12-4 overall, 8-4 NSIC) quickly grabbed the lead in overtime.
Jordan Poydras - who led all scorers with 32 points - knocked down a step-back jumper on the opening possession and converted an and-one shortly after. With the lead in hand, SCSU made free throws down the stretch to ice the victory.
MSU had the ball trailing by three with 30 seconds left, but sophomore Dominique McDonald traveled while attempting to drive the baseline. McDonald finished with 19 points and a season-high nine turnovers.
Huskies freshman Scott Stone converted all four of his freebies after that miscue and MSU (6-10, 2-10) never threatened again.
"We've lost three games at the free-throw line this year by a total of 11 points and been atrocious with our free throws," SCSU coach Kevin Schlagel said. "It was good to see us get something done there. ... It was nice to see Scotty Stone step up as a freshman and make some big ones for us."
It was Poydras who gave the Beavers fits all game. The 6-foot-3 sophomore hit four 3-pointers and several contested jumpers - including one in overtime that bounced multiple times on the rim before dropping in.
"He's an all-conference player and those type of guys, if you have breakdown and let 'em see the ball go through the hoop a couple times, it can get pretty big in a hurry," Murken said. "We allowed him to get in a rhythm with a couple of open ones, and then he hit a couple really tough ones but it was a little too late by then."
Williams, who had a team-high 21 points, said mental errors hurt the Beavers late. MSU had 20 turnovers compared to the Huskies' 12.
"We had a couple bad turnovers down the stretch," Williams said. "I think that was probably it that cost us the game, but it goes back to the little things as well. The loose balls, diving on the floor, we only needed one more point to win in regulation."
MSU trailed by 12 midway through the opening half, but a McDonald 3 brought the Beavers within 42-34 at the intermission. MSU scored the first eight points out of halftime and the game was back-and-forth from there.
Junior center Lazar Boskovic had 13 points in his first start for MSU, and junior wing Thomas Korf also chipped in 13. Senior forward Chris East posted 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
At halftime, the Beavers honored alumni from the basketball program. A scholarship was announced in honor of Doug Jaeger, an alumnus who is suffering from ALS - also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The scholarship will help fund the education of North Dakota natives who play basketball for MSU.
Daniel Allar covers Minot State University athletics. Follow him on Twitter @DAllar_MDN.