NSIC champs Northern State thump MSU men in regular season finale
On a mission to return to the Division II National Championship game, Northern State — the newly crowned 2018-19 NSIC regular season champions — rolled past the Minot State men’s basketball Saturday in the final game of the regular season.
The Wolves (22-6, 18-4 NSIC) dominated from the get-go in a 80-63 road victory over the Beavers (14-17, 9-13 NSIC) on Senior Day at the Minot State Dome.
“(Northern State) was the more aggressive team for most of the first half,” MSU head coach Matt Murken said. “They worked for better shots, more often than we did. I thought we settled at times, which led to transition (for them). Really, that whole game we never got into a good offensive flow. And we dug ourselves a pretty big hole.”
Northern State jumped on MSU early and never looked back. The Beavers briefly led at 4-2, but were quickly looking up at 16-6 deficit.
The advantage ballooned out to 17 points by halftime, 37-20.
“I think sometimes our guys put a little bit of extra pressure on themselves because they know we are playing a good team,” Murken said. “They want to help our team win, but then they make a play they shouldn’t try to make. That puts them in a bad situation and our team in a bad situation. I thought that happened a little bit tonight.”
The lone bright spot for the Beavers was sophomore guard Dorian Aluyi. He racked up a career-high 25 points, shooting 9-for-14 from the floor. The rest of the Beavers shot 13-for-45.
“I was just doing what I do best,” Aluyi said. “Getting the basket, drawing fouls, cutting and rebounding. Most of my points came in the paint as I only hit one three. I got to the foul line and played to my strengths.”
MSU’s leading scorer, senior David Akibo (19 points per game), fouled out after only scoring eight points with 8:34 remaining. But, by then, the game was already out of reach, 61-38.
All the excitement of Senior Day for Akibo, Damjan Jovikj, Liam McRae and Eduardo Gomez del Casal had been sucked out of the Minot State Dome.
The winning pedigree of Northern State got the better of the Beavers, as much as they tried to avoid it.
“I love playing games like this,” Aluyi said. “I love going against the best competition and I know my teammates do too. We just didn’t come out with the right mindset. We came out trying to outscore them and didn’t do what it takes on the defensive end.”
Murken added: “The mindset should be to execute and play the same way… That’s what it should be. But, when you are playing good teams, it takes a little more mental toughness to continue to do what you are supposed to do. Sometimes you do what is meant to be done and they will still score or get a stop. You got to be tough enough to keep executing.”
Northern State shot 48.3 percent from the floor and went 19-for-20 at the charity stripe. MSU shot 37.3 percent.
The Wolves had four players in double figures: Andrew Kallman (16), Ian Smith (12), Gabe King (12) and Bo Fries (11).
Besides Aluyi with 25 points, guard Max Cody reached double-digits with 10 points.
“Any time you play, you want to play well,” Murken said. “So, I think it’s OK to be frustrated with this one.”
MSU can’t dwell on the past with the NSIC Tournament right around the corner. The Beavers finished in a three-way tie for the No. 5 seed out of the NSIC North, but won the head-to-head tiebreaker over Minnesota Crookston and U-Mary.
Therefore, the Beavers will head to Sioux Falls on Wednesday for the first round of the NSIC Tournament.
“At the end of the day, we know we have to win our game on Wednesday,” Murken said. “We got to make sure we are prepared to do that.”
Alex Eisen covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.