MSU WBB erases 11-point fourth quarter deficit, snaps losing streak

Sean Arbaut/Minot State athletics Minot State's Holly Johnson (23) shoots a floater during a women's college basketball game Saturday at the MSU Dome.

Staring at a large deficit in the fourth quarter, a familiar feeling crept in for the Minot State women’s basketball team.

The Beavers were on the verge of dropping their sixth straight game by double digits, this time after an 11-day layoff.

But MSU refused to let itself continue to be embarrassed. Trailing 52-41 in the fourth, the Beavers played their best defensive quarter of the year, outscoring St. Cloud State 20-6 and escaping with a 61-58 victory Saturday at the MSU Dome.

“If I could sum it up in one word, I’d use gutsy,” MSU coach Mark Graupe said. “We didn’t play that well, but it was just a gutsy performance and a gutsy effort. Holding them to 23 points in the second half, especially six in the fourth quarter, that’s a great defensive effort.”

MSU had allowed at least 11 3-pointers in three straight games entering the matchup and the Huskies exploited that weakness in the first half.

Sean Arbaut/Minot State athletics MSU's Kristal Flowers (40) lifts up a shot Saturday.

SCSU outscored the Beavers 20-10 in the second quarter, thanks to six 3-pointers, en route to taking a 35-26 halftime lead. MSU was held scoreless for a 7-minute and 30 second stretch in the quarter and allowed eight 3-pointers in the first half.

After treading water in the third quarter, the Beavers trailed by 11 entering the final period of play.

A 12-2 run to start the fourth reduced the Huskies’ lead to one with 4:30 left. SCSU completely lost its way offensively, only scoring two points in the first 7 minutes and only made one 3-pointer in the second half.

MSU took its first lead since the first quarter at the 1-minute mark after senior forward Diondra Denton made her first 3-pointer of the night (after starting 0-for-3), sinking it from the right corner.

“I just went, ‘Oh thank gosh,'” Denton said. “I was 0-for-3 before that, then bang. I just kept believing in myself. Coach kept telling me, ‘The next one is going in, the next one is going in.’ I finally hit it and I was just stoked.”

On the next possession, Minot State made a defensive stop, but a wild scrum on the rebound won by SCSU gave the Huskies another shot with 30.9 seconds remaining.

After a miss, SCSU had two more chances to tie, including a chance at the buzzer, but the Beavers’ defense held.

“Honestly, it was just grit,” Denton said. “It was grit and heart, and the will to never give up.”

Holly Johnson led the Beavers in scoring, finishing with 18 points and seven rebounds. Kristal Flowers added 13 points and eight rebounds, while Maddie Wald was the other Beaver player in double figures with 15. MSU shot 48.8 percent from the floor, 23.5 percent from beyond the arc and held a 33-28 rebounding advantage.

“This win was huge, I think this weekend is a huge pivoting point in our season,” Johnson said. “If we can get another win against Duluth, it would be great for us to catch up with our win-loss record. It’s just big for your confidence and morale going into the rest of the year. It was a team win. It was ugly, but we got it done.”

Madelin Dammann had a game-high 22 points for SCSU (6-4, 3-3 NSIC), while Andrea Thomas chipped in 12 points. The Huskies shot 36.7 percent from the floor and 41.7 percent from 3-point range.

MSU (4-7, 1-6) is back in action at 2 p.m. today against Minnesota Duluth at the MSU Dome.

Garrick Hodge covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @Garrick_Hodge.