MSU prepares for rebounding challenge without Fraser

Kelvin Fraser’s knee injury came at a bad time for the Minot State University men’s basketball team.

The 6-foot-9 senior center had arthroscopic surgery Wednesday to repair torn cartilage and meniscus damage from an injury he suffered in a victory Saturday against Minnesota Duluth. MSU coach Matt Murken said a timetable for Fraser’s return hasn’t been set, but the Beavers’ tallest player and the school’s all-time leader in blocked shots will be out this weekend when the Beavers host the top rebounding team in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.

Minnesota State-Mankato (16-2 overall, 7-2 NSIC) outrebounds opponents by an average of 8.7 boards per game and boasts a starting lineup featuring three players 6-foot-6 or taller.

Without Fraser, MSU’s tallest active player is Chris East, a 6-6 junior forward who leads the team on the glass (7.6 rpg).

“(Mankato has) some nice size especially in the guard court, but the thing they do better than everyone else is just relentlessly go after every rebound whether it’s a defensive or an offensive rebound,” Murken said. “They have numerous guys that really compete on the glass every single shot and that’ll be one of the biggest keys to knocking those guys off. They get so many more shot opportunities than their opponents because they can just go get it off the rim so well.”

MSU sophomore Adam Randall, who often plays as a 6-4 power forward, said playing the No. 7 Mavericks “will be a fun challenge.”

“It’s really no pressure on us when we have a team that highly ranked,” Randall said. “It’s just go out and play your hardest and maybe knock ’em off on your home floor. That’d be a big victory.”

Before the Beavers (7-11, 6-8) play Mankato on Saturday, they’ll host a struggling Concordia-St. Paul team tonight.

The Golden Bears (4-14, 2-12) sit at the bottom of the NSIC South Division but are coming off a 74-65 victory over Wayne State on Saturday.

C-SP is led by sophomore guard Terez VanPelt, the conference’s third-leading scorer at 19.4 points per outing. Guard Cole Olstad (14.5 ppg) and wing Isaiah Thomas (11.3 ppg) give the Golden Bears a formidable scoring punch in the backcourt.

“If all three of those guys get going, those have been the games that they’ve won,” Murken said. “If teams have limited one of them, or especially two of them, then they haven’t won too many of those games.”

With MSU’s penchant for stout defense – the Beavers allow opponents to shoot just 41 percent from the field – Murken expects his team to be up to the task.

“I think our guards will see it as a challenge and hopefully they’ll be fired up to do a good job on those guys,” he said. “We’ve had some matchups in the past where a lot of teams have two really high-scoring guards and we’ve done a good job on those. But really, they’re unique in that they have three of ’em and you can’t really hide one guy.”