Winona State tops MSU

Much like the wireless microphone that cut out intermittently during the national anthem before Minot State’s men’s basketball game Saturday, the Beavers only performed well in spurts.

It wasn’t nearly enough to stay with Winona State, which took advantage of its massive size advantage and shot 52 percent from the field in an 84-55 victory at the MSU Dome.

All-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference performer Clayton Vette, WSU’s 6-foot-9 center, had his way inside with 17 points and nine rebounds.

The Warriors (13-3, 7-2 NSIC) also received a boost from all-conference swingman Grant Johnson, who scored a game-high 23 points in just 18 minutes in his first game of the season. The 6-foot-5 senior was forced to sit out the end of last season and the Warriors’ first 15 games of this campaign because WSU played him without transfer release papers from his former team, Wisconsin-Parkside.

“It was a long road, man,” Johnson said. “It felt really good to be out there. It was like walking on air when I stepped on the court for warmups.”

Johnson stretched WSU’s lead to 15 with a finger roll in transition with 3 minutes, 39 seconds remaining in the opening half.

After a Kelvin Fraser jump hook capped a 7-2 MSU run, the Warriors scored five points in the final minute of the first half to take a 41-26 lead into the locker room.

Vette scored seven in a row to give WSU a 51-30 lead with 16:21 remaining. MSU wouldn’t get closer than 18 points the rest of the way.

“The bottom line is we didn’t defend well enough against a good team to win,” MSU coach Matt Murken said. “In order to consistently beat good teams, we have to be great defensively, and we gave up over 50 percent field-goal shooting tonight and we did that last night as well. When you do that, you have to be so good offensively to sustain a run, and really, we weren’t good offensively either.”

The Beavers strung together a few baskets on a couple of occasions, but for the most part, field goals were difficult to come by against the physical defense of the Warriors, who outrebounded MSU 39-29.

Chris East, a 6-foot-6 junior forward, was often the tallest player on the court for MSU (4-9, 3-6). The Warriors’ starting lineup included three players 6-7 or taller, and the size may have deterred the Beavers from attacking the paint with their typical aggression.

MSU attempted attempted 26 of its 60 shots from 3-point range – making six of them – and had several shots altered in the paint.

“I think our big thing is we just wanna take away dribble penetration and we want to force teams to shoot from the outside,” WSU coach Mike Leaf said. “Hopefully, you force them to take that tough shot and then you get the rebound. It’s pretty simple, but it seems to be working for us.”

The Beavers, who shot 37 percent from the floor, were led by junior guard E.J. Williams’ 15 points. Fraser chipped in 11 and Dominique McDonald had 10 on 4-of-16 shooting.

MSU hosts in-state rival University of Mary at 8 p.m. Tuesday.