MSU’s stout defense to be tested this weekend

The offensive production for the Minot State University men’s basketball team has fluctuated plenty this season, but the Beavers have never stopped defending.

MSU is holding opponents to a 38.7 field-goal percentage, the lowest mark in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and the 20th-lowest in the nation.

“That’ll be tested this weekend,” MSU coach Matt Murken said, referring to the Beavers’ matchups with Upper Iowa on Friday and Winona State (Minn.) on Saturday. “Because those two teams get good shots at the basket.”

Upper Iowa (9-4 overall, 5-2 NSIC) boasts a balanced offensive attack, with two players Tucker Wentzien and Sam Elgin – averaging 12 points per game and four more netting at least six per contest.

“They’re really consistent with the plays they run and they run them very well,” MSU sophomore Thomas Korf said. “I think we just need to play well defensively, and if we do that, then we’ll be in each game.”

Murken said the Beavers (4-7, 3-4) spent most of their practice time early in the season on defense, but he hopes the offense will eventually catch up.

“With defense, we know we can control it every game,” he said. “With offense, sometimes they go in and sometimes they don’t. So we want to go in knowing that even if we don’t shoot it well, if we really guard, we have a chance to win.”

Winona State (11-3, 5-2) will present a different kind of challenge for MSU, as the Warriors feature one of the conference’s most dominant players. Clayton Vette, a 6-foot-9, 240-pound senior, was an honorable mention All-American last season and is leading WSU with 18.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per contest.

“We’ll have different guys on him and he’s been doubled in every game they’ve played this year,” Murken said. “He’s just really skilled but also really big.”

MSU’s 6-foot-9 center Kelvin Fraser, who surpassed the career 100-block mark last weekend, will likely be the primary defender on Vette. Josh Johnson, a 6-5 senior forward, will also be available after sitting out the Beavers’ last two games while addressing an academic issue.