MSU seeking to duplicate success against SCSU, UMD

The last time Minot State played St. Cloud State, the Beavers pulled off the signature win of their season with a 69-62 dispatching of then-No. 19 SCSU on the road.

MSU did it by holding the high-powered Huskies – who lead the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference in scoring at 79.4 points per game – well below their season average.

The win against SCSU (13-3 overall, 9-3 NSIC) capped the Beavers’ lone road sweep of the season. The night before, they’d beaten Minnesota Duluth 62-55 behind another solid defensive performance. Beavers coach Matt Murken said his team will need to match that intensity when SCSU and Duluth (4-12, 2-10) visit the MSU Dome tonight and Saturday, respectively.

“It always helps when you shoot the basketball well and we made some shots in both those games, but I think the biggest thing was we just defended with a lot of energy,” Murken said of the teams’ meetings early this month. “We’ll have to do that again, for sure, this weekend.”

Defense has been the Beavers’ strength all season, but MSU is coming off its highest-scoring weekend in conference play. The 134 combined points in a split against Wayne State and Augustana are the most in back-to-back games by the Beavers this season.

“Early on we were having a couple dry spells per game where we weren’t getting good looks,” Murken said. “Now I feel like we’re getting more good looks consistently. Our ball movement’s been better, our guys’ understanding of how to get each other open shots has been better.”

The Beavers (6-10, 5-7) have been boosted by the return of senior Josh Johnson, who has averaged 11 points and six rebounds in the past three games. The versatile 6-foot-5 forward sat out the four games before that stretch to catch up on his academics.

“It’s been a big help having him back, just having another big inside,” MSU sophomore Adam Randall said. “We were pretty small when he was out so it’ll definitely help with the defensive rebounding.”

Playing SCSU and Duluth at home appears to be an advantage for the Beavers, but MSU has picked up four of its five conference wins on the road.

“We just have to take care of business at home,” Murken said. “We have four straight here, so we have to keep up that energy we’ve been showing on the road.”