Winning with defense

It wasn’t the most emphatic block of Kelvin Fraser’s career, but it was certainly among the most timely.

In the waning seconds of Minot State’s men’s basketball game against the University of Mary on Tuesday, the Beavers’ 6-foot-9 career record-holder for blocked shots sprung off the court and got a fingertip on Mary forward Alex Dorr’s would-be game winner.

The deflected shot landed in the arms of MSU freshman Dominique McDonald, who alertly tossed the ball ahead to avoid being fouled. Fraser grabbed the lead pass and slammed home an after-the-buzzer two-handed dunk to punctuate the Beavers’ 49-48 victory over their in-state rivals in front of 1,205 fans at the MSU Dome.

“I think it’s one of my most important (blocks),” said Fraser, who finished the game with five rejections. “They really came out to play. They challenged us, they punched us, but we just kept fighting. Defense was really important and I think we did a really good job on executing and knowing when to switch out on the right guys. I’m really glad I got a piece of that.”

Defense and taking care of the ball – MSU committed a season-low five turnovers – allowed the Beavers (5-9, 4-6 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference) to maintain contact despite shooting 31 percent from the field.

Mary (3-11, 2-8) shot 38 percent from the floor and outrebounded MSU 42-33, but coughed the ball up 14 times. Neither team led by more than six points in the rugged second half.

“It was fitting that we won on the defensive effort the last possession because that’s how we stayed in the game,” MSU coach Matt Murken said. “I love that style of basketball, but I’d love it more if we got it going a little bit offensively and had a little more breathing room.”

MSU junior Adam Randall scored a team-high 14 points, including 10 in the second half. His two free throws with one minute, 19 seconds remaining put MSU ahead by one and turned out to be the final points of the game.

“I feel like he’s figured some things out a little bit, and he’s gotten to the point where he can just play,” Murken said. “He’s a kid that needs to cut it loose and play. That’s what makes him a player. … He’s got that little extra heartbeat, a little faster than the other guys, and he likes to do the dirty work.”

Mary junior Jalen Jaspers finished with a game-high 19 points and 10 rebounds and carried the Marauders down the stretch. The powerfully built 6-foot-3 guard scored Mary’s final nine points.

“Jalen really battled,” Mary coach Jevin Budde said. “With the way they pressured us, he was our best guy in terms of being able to attack their pressure. Jalen did a nice job, especially in the second half, of being able to attack and get some baskets.”

But it was ultimately MSU that came out on top.

“It wasn’t the prettiest game to watch,” Randall said. “We knew we had to come out and execute our defensive game plan and if shots didn’t go in, we could always play defense.”

MSU senior forward Josh Johnson, who returned after sitting out four games to work on academics, added 12 points.

The Beavers travel to Wayne State College (Neb.) on Friday and Augustana College (S.D.) on Saturday.