Beaver men complete weekend sweep

Sean Arbaut/Minot State athletics Minot State's Tyler Rudolph (24) celebrates after scoring a basket during a men's college basketball game Saturday at the MSU Dome.

Not much was going right for the Minot State men’s basketball team defensively after the first half of Saturday’s contest with Bemidji State.

BSU shot an astounding 68 percent from the floor en route to a 38-31 lead entering the break, including a 60 percent clip from long range.

But MSU responded by outscoring the green Beavers 49-33 in the second half for a 80-71 victory at the MSU Dome.

“We didn’t protect the lane very well in the first half, that’s for sure,” MSU coach Matt Murken said. “We got exposed off the bounce a little bit. Some of our rotations were late and we didn’t win the energy battle in the first half. But we fixed that midway through the second half and made them take some contested jumpers with a hand in their face.”

With the win, MSU ends the regular season on a two-game winning streak and improved to 19-9 overall and 13-9 in conference play. The Beavers finished No. 3 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference North Division and will host Upper Iowa at 8 p.m. Wednesday in the first round of the NSIC Tournament.

The weekend sweep of Crookston and Bemidji seemingly halted a late season slide where MSU lost six straight games.

“This whole week we stressed we had two big games coming up so we could have some momentum going into the playoffs,” MSU senior forward Tyler Rudolph said. “We came out and executed our sets, and got back to playing Minot State basketball. I think that’s a big deal.”

One of the biggest reasons for the second half surge was the improved play of forward Trevor Rothstein. Rothstein, who had been injured for a good part of the season, scored all 10 of his points after halftime and grabbed six rebounds in 17 minutes.

Murken has always viewed Rothstein as a sparkplug in the lineup, which maybe became a little too evident after Rothstein and BSU guard Sharif Black were in a small skirmish late in the game that resulted in a technical foul. Nonetheless, Rothstein had his biggest game of the season when the Beavers needed him.

“He just was an energy boost,” Murken said. “We tell our team every year at the start ‘One of you guys is going to play off the bench just because you play harder than everybody else.’ We play an energy big guy every year. That might be 4 minutes, or 24 minutes, but we’re going to bring a guy off the bench that brings that energy. Trevor did that for us this weekend.”

Rothstein was one of five MSU players in double figures. Rudolph had a game-high 23 points on a 10 of 16 shooting effort. Senior point guard Luis Ricci Maia scored 15 and Russ Davis and Nate Moore each recorded 12. The red Beavers shot 45.2 percent from the floor, were 8-of-23 beyond the arc and outrebounded BSU 30-29.

Jai’Vionne Green led BSU with 21 points, while Black scored 19 and Logan Bader notched 13. The green Beavers shot 56 percent from the floor, made 6 of 16 3-pointers and turned the ball over 12 times.

With the regular season behind them, the Beavers shift their focus to Wednesday’s playoff game.

“We’re walking around with a little more bounce in our step,” Murken said. “The challenge is, what happens Wednesday if we miss our first six shots and they miss their first six shots. Can we keep doing our job? I thought we were back to that against Bemidji and had the belief that doing our job is good enough to get us a victory.”

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