On to Sioux Falls
Beavers win first ever NSIC Tournament game
Tyler Rudolph was all smiles as the clock winded down Wednesday.
He looked up and saw his close friend Trevor Rothstein run to the scorers table. Judging by his grin, Rudolph probably had a pretty good idea what was coming next.
Rothstein replaced Rudolph 36 seconds before the Minot State men’s basketball team won its first Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Tournament game in program history and then the smile grew even larger.
The announced 1,357 fans at the MSU Dome gave the Bismarck native a well-deserved sendoff as he left the court he called he’s called home for four years for the final time. He gave his longtime coach Matt Murken a hug and then celebrated with his teammates. Rudolph had just played the game of his life in a 28-point, 10-rebound effort in a 91-71 postseason victory over Upper Iowa.
It was a moment that he and his teammates have worked four years for. And it meant the Beavers finally got to enjoy a taste of postseason success.
“It’s a great feeling,” Rudolph said. “We came so close last year to making it to the next round, just to win this game for my fellow seniors just means a lot. Getting subbed out was a great feeling, and we’ll enjoy it for a bit.
“But with everyone else that got subbed out, I told them ‘We’re not done yet.’ We want to make some noise moving forward.”
With the victory, MSU moves to 20-9 overall and advances to play MSU Mankato in the NSIC Tournament quarterfinals at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.
“We were able to get a big win for our program and were led by our seniors,” Murken said. “What an amazing effort from all of those guys. It’s just unbelievable the way our seniors carried us. I was really happy we got to honor them at the end because they worked their tails off and set a standard for how you build a program.
“A day doesn’t go by where someone doesn’t reach out to me and tell me how impressed they are with the way they carry themselves. I just want to keep coaching this group as long as possible.”
MSU only trailed once the entire game and built a 24-14 lead in the first half thanks to an early 10 points from Rudolph. At halftime, the Beavers led 43-36.
Everything seemed it was going the Beavers’ way deep into the second half, but then Upper Iowa made its move. The Peacocks erased a 60-49 deficit thanks to a 11-0 run that ended with 9:33 remaining, sending a hush over the dome.
But just as the Beavers have done all season, they responded with a big run of their own, 12-0, to take a 78-66 lead and seal the victory.
“This game was just how our season has been,” Murken said. “We knew there was going to be adversity at times, and when they came back, we just kept doing what we were supposed to do. We kept executing and knew it was going to pay off eventually.”
The turning point second half run was highlighted by a four-point play from senior guard Russ Davis. After Davis saw the shot go down, he turned to the animated student section and flexed for his supporters. Davis finished with 22 points on the night.
“I felt it pretty much all night,” Davis said. “I knew my shot was going to be on-point. On that play, the defender was playing off me, and I knew I could shoot from pretty far. If I see someone with their hands down, I’m probably going to shoot it. I loved that feeling.”
Other double digit scorers for MSU included senior Nate Moore (13), and senior guard Brandon Green (10). The Beavers shot 52.6 percent from the floor, made 6-of-21 3-pointers and outrebounded the Peacocks 38-28.
Kam Rowan led Upper Iowa with 18 points, while Carson Parker chipped in 17. The Peacocks shot 38.7 percent from the floor, 13-of-35 from 3-point range and made 10 of 10 free throws.
Despite the elation felt by the entire roster, the Beavers don’t have much time to enjoy their victory. MSU will travel to Sioux Falls today in preparation for a second matchup with Mankato and hope the result is more of the same from the 91-83 overtime victory it earned on Jan. 12.
“They’re a really good basketball team,” Murken said. “They hit a little slide for a second like we did, but it will be two 20-win teams going at it. You can’t ask for anything more. I feel like if we execute our game plan, we can beat anybody.”
Garrick Hodge covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @Garrick_Hodge