A bittersweet milestone
Rudolph becomes Beavers’ all-time leading scorer, but MSU loses to Upper Iowa
There were cheers. A lot of hugs from family and teammates. And a postgame ceremony that Minot State senior forward Tyler Rudolph will remember long after his collegiate basketball career is over.
Minot State men’s basketball finally got to celebrate Rudolph becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer Saturday, as the Bismarck native broke a record that stood for 38 years.
Rudolph passed Paul Harrell (1,826 career points) for the top spot on the list after scoring 13 against Upper Iowa, giving him 1,836 points to date.
“It’s a cool honor, especially knowing all of the people that came before me,” Rudolph said. “But right now I’m just trying to keep the focus on the game aspect. We have a big six games coming up and we need those to make a big playoff push this year.”
But that was merely a wonderful moment in an otherwise dreadful evening for the Beavers. MSU had its worst defensive performance of the season, allowing Upper Iowa to shoot 64.3 percent from the floor in a 99-89 defeat. It’s the first time MSU (17-5, 11-5 NSIC) has lost back-to-back games this season and the Beavers have now dropped three out of their last five.
“We just weren’t very locked in as a group,” MSU coach Matt Murken said. “We let them get to a lot of different spots. Especially in the first half, I don’t think we guarded very well, at all. Then we topped that by guarding even worse in the second half. So that’s the downside of today’s game. Still plenty of things to be accomplished, still have to find a way to get better. That’s the same thing we’d say if we won.”
Rudolph only needed three points entering the matchup to claim first place on the scoring list and broke the record at the 11:04 mark in the first half on a shot that has defined his career; a mid-range jumper from the corner.
After connecting on the basket, the MSU Dome erupted and rose to its feet, giving the star 6-foot-6 inside-out player a standing ovation. The student section started a “Rudy, Rudy,” chant, a nickname bestowed on Rudolph for as long as he can remember.
“It was an awesome moment,” Rudolph said. “Knowing that when that shot went in, the record was broken. Seeing the enjoyment of everyone and the support that we’ve had out here, it just meant a lot to me.”
Both teams seemingly couldn’t miss in the first half, heading into the break with a 55 percent shooting clip. The Beavers led 45-42, marking Saturday the first time they’ve lost this season when leading after the first half.
Once Upper Iowa reclaimed the lead at the 15:30 mark in the second half, the Peacocks never relinquished it, using an 9-0 run to jump out to a 62-53 advantage.
The Peacocks led by as many as 13, 81-68, with 6:06 remaining, but the Beavers reduced the deficit to five with only 48 seconds left. Upper Iowa didn’t miss its free throws down the stretch and improved to 13-12 overall and 6-10 in conference play.
“Adversity is going to come in college athletics,” Murken said. “There’s going to be a good stretch and there’s going to be a bad stretch in every season usually. We’re going through a bad stretch right now so we just need to see how we can bounce back.”
Senior point guard Luis Ricci Maia led the Beavers with 21 points on a 7 of 10 shooting effort, while junior forward David Akibo chipped in 19. Senior guard Russ Davis was the other MSU player in double figures with 11 points. The Beavers shot 51.6 percent from the floor, 12-of-27 from 3-point range and were outrebounded 31-27.
“After the game, I just said ‘Look, we’re not going to fix anything just talking in the locker room right now.’ There’s a lot of season left and we all agreed we didn’t play our best basketball and we all agree we can play better,” Murken said. “We’re going to come back ready to work.”
Joe Smoldt and Dennis Austin III each had 18 points for Upper Iowa, while Munachiso Okonkwo had 17 points on a 7 of 8 shooting performance, with six field goals being dunks. The Peacocks shot 72.4 percent in the second half and made 7 of 14 3-pointers and had 20 assists on the night.
MSU (17-5, 11-4) is back in action at 8 p.m. against Southwest Minnesota State in Marshall, Minn.
Garrick Hodge covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @Garrick_Hodge.