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MSU women hang with zone-heavy Augustana, but upset denied

Alex Eisen/MDN MSU senior guard Kari Clements (12) dribbles the ball up the court against Augustana Friday evening at the Minot State Dome.

Keeping with recent tradition, the Minot State women’s basketball team took another game right to the buzzer.

The Beavers (9-12, 4-11 NSIC), riding a two-game winning streak, had NSIC South leaders Augustana (19-5, 11-4 NSIC) sweating it out Friday evening, but MSU couldn’t quite pull off the upset.

The Vikings held on for a 61-58 win over the Beavers at the Minot State Dome.

“We handled their press and there have been a lot of teams that (Augustana) have forced turnovers against,” MSU head coach Mark Graupe said. “We hardly turned it over and we handled it. Our defense was fine, allowing 61 points. But, I’m just really disappointed at the offensive end.”

Grabbing five offensive boards and forcing the Beavers into some questionable turnovers, Augustana jumped out to an 8-1 lead and forced Graupe into an early timeout.

MSU regrouped and attacked Augustana’s 1-2-2 zone with a vengeance.

For starters, senior guards Kari Clements and Madison Wald began connecting on 3-pointers — both of which were honored before the game for recently surpassing 1,000-career points at Minot State.

“We were scoring, but we were turning it over a bunch too,” said Clements, who finished with a game-high 21 points with four 3-pointers. “And that led to points down at the other end.”

Augustana’s zone started to wear down the Beavers.

“We wanted to get the ball into the high post every time and that person is supposed to go to the rim,” Graupe said. “Maybe we should have switched that up and put a little guard there instead, like Maddie (Wald) or Mariah (Payne). I will put that on myself. Maybe we put the wrong person at the high post.”

MSU stretched out its one point first quarter lead, 14-13, despite only making two field goals in the second quarter.

Reina Strand made the first one with 2 minutes left before halftime and Mariah Payne, after missing her first five shots, sunk a 3-pointer.

The Beavers also went 7-for-8 on free throws in the quarter to hold a 26-20 lead at halftime. Clements led the way with 13 first-half points. No other Beavers had more than three points.

Not to be overlooked was MSU’s defensive effort. Augustana came into the contest with the highest scoring offense in the conference, averaging 78.1 points per game.

“Our defense was really good in the first half,” Clements said. “But, coming out of halftime, we were lackadaisical.”

Graupe added: “Our defense was fine, it was our offense.”

A sloppy third quarter at both ends still featured a bunch of scoring. Augustana outscored MSU, 20-12, in the frame to regain the lead.

A step-back triple by Payne pushed the Beavers back within a point, 42-41, early in the fourth quarter.

Clements did the same and brought the Beavers back a few minutes later with a pair of 3-pointers, 52-51.

MSU, however, went on another scoring drought and was looking up at a four-point deficit, 58-54, when Payne hit another triple (MSU’s eighth of the game) with 27.3 seconds remaining.

Augustana split at the free throw line three straight times to give the Beavers a chance at the buzzer to force overtime.

Unaware of the score, 61-58, and how much time was left, Payne drove to the paint and took a two-point jumper as time expired.

“In my four years here, we have lost to Augie a lot,” Clements said. “So, sticking with them when they are the No. 1 seed in the South is a good thing. We just made too many turnovers (at the end) and that’s what it came down to.”

The Beavers host Wayne State, currently sitting in the middle of the NSIC South Division, at 3:30 p.m. this afternoon. MSU has never beaten Wayne State in program history (0-6).

Alex Eisen covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.

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