COLLEGE NOTEBOOK: Returning to form

All it took was a simple reminder to step into his shot.

Thomas Korf received this advice over Christmas break, when he was hoisting jump shots with his high school basketball coaches back home in St. Cloud, Minn. When the 6-foot-4 sophomore returned to workouts with Minot State, head coach Matt Murken noticed an extra bounce in the sharpshooter’s step.

The increased confidence led to Korf, who had hit 11-of-33 3-pointers entering last weekend, drilling 8-of-14 triples in a pair of road wins over Minnesota Duluth and then-No. 19 St. Cloud State – arguably the two biggest wins of the season for the Beavers (4-7 overall, 3-4 Northern Sun).

“When you struggle, it’s tough because you expect to make every shot, but you just have to keep shooting,” said Korf, who finished with a game-high 19 points against Duluth and added 12 against SCSU. “I started making some finally, and my teammates got me open, hit me when I was open, and the shots started falling.”

Korf knocked down his first five 3-point attempts against Duluth and his first three against SCSU – the program for which Korf had season tickets growing up and served as a ballboy for two seasons. Against Duluth, his hot streak gave MSU an early lead. In the SCSU game, Korf’s treys helped the Beavers rally from a double-digit deficit.

“He seemed to be shooting real well again (in practice) and he kind of earned his way back into that starting lineup,” Murken said. “He hit one or two early in both those games and as a shooter, once you do that, it gets a little easier and easier. Our guys did a good job of finding him after he hit one or two and he just kept going.”

MSU hosts Upper Iowa on Friday and Winona State (Minn.) on Saturday, and the entire team will benefit offensively if Korf continues to fill it up.

“It definitely will stretch the defense,” Korf said. “It’ll open gaps for our point guards to drive in and gives our posts some space down low, so I think it’ll help our whole team out if I keep shooting pretty well.”

Women’s team looking to snap skid

While the men’s team is riding its first conference winning streak – and first winning streak, period – the women’s program has lost five consecutive NSIC games.

Here’s a rundown of some of the issues coach Sheila Green Gerding said the Beavers (6-5 overall, 2-5 NSIC) must address to get back on track:

– Eliminating what Green Gerding described as a “two-to-three minute slump” to start the second half, which she said has plagued the Beavers in at least three games. During this stretch, the Beavers typically play stagnant defense, fail to grab defensive rebounds and allow the opposing team to grab the momentum out of the locker room.

“It’s just been a situation where there’s been a string of possessions early in the second half where we’re so stuck in the mud, not moving, not chasing down ball and certainly not rebounding,” Green Gerding said. “We just need to correct that stretch right there and that helps us in a lot of ways.”

– Rebounding. The slow start to second halves is a primary culprit for the Beavers’ rebounding troubles, but MSU got smacked 43-29 on the boards at Duluth on Friday and St. Cloud State handled MSU 36-29 on the glass on Saturday.

For the season, MSU is being outrebounded by an average of 4.3 per game.

Green Gerding said the Beavers have had trouble with block-out assignments out of their zone defense. While she said her team will continue to play zone at times, MSU might use more man-to-man defense in the coming games. This will enhance the players’ personal responsibility of sealing off opponents and make rebounding simpler.

– Get the right players shots. Against Duluth on Friday, the Beavers’ top two scorers – Carly Boag (15.5 ppg) and Sacarra Molina (13.3 ppg) – combined for just nine field-goal attempts.

“Bottom line is they need to be shooting 30-40 percent of our shots,” Green Gerding said.

On the season, Molina and Boag are averaging nearly 34 percent of MSU’s shot attempts.

– Limiting turnovers. The Beavers are coming off their worst weekend in terms of giveaways after coughing the ball up 27 times against Duluth and 25 times against St. Cloud State.

“A lot of it is not making good decisions and keeping the ball off the court more,” Green Gerding said. “We go one pass and then we have to try to create something, which causes us trouble because the defense never shifted. We just need to be a smarter basketball team.”

Around the NSIC

– Minnesota State-Mankato interim football coach Aaron Keen was named the Don Hansen All-Super Region Three Coach of the Year on Wednesday. There are 46 football-playing schools in the region.

Keen guided the Mavericks to a 13-1 record in the absence of head coach Todd Hoffner, who was placed on leave as he went on trial for charges of child pornography. Hoffner was eventually cleared of the charges.

Mankato, which beat Minot State 44-10 in the season opener, advanced to the NCAA Division II playoff semifinals before losing to eventual champion Valdosta State University.

– The Concordia-St. Paul women’s basketball team had a memorable road trip last weekend.

The Golden Bears (7-4 overall, 5-2 NSIC) snapped then-No. 19 Wayne State’s 52-game home winning streak with a 56-46 win Friday at Rice Auditorium. On Saturday, C-SP beat then-No. 5 Augustana College 70-61.

C-SP sophomore Anika Whiting, a 6-foot-2 forward, was named the conference player of the week after posting consecutive double-doubles with an average of 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds over the two games.

– Minnesota State-Mankato’s women’s team also got a signature win over Augustana, as junior forward Ali Wilkinson put up a career-high 35 points to lead the Mavericks to an 80-79 victory.

Wilkinson’s 35 is the highest-scoring game in the conference this season and she leads the NSIC with an average of 20.5 points per game.