MSU basketball teams facing tough first-round opponents

The Minot State University men’s and women’s basketball teams find themselves in a similar situation as they prepare for play in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament.

Both got beaten, badly, by their first-round opponents during the regular season.

The MSU women play at 6 tonight at Augustana College (S.D.), which handled the Beavers 94-66 in January. Vikings post Alex Feeney scored 26 points, hitting 9-of-10 field goals and stepping out for four 3-pointers.

“You’re not gonna win if you let Feeney go off for 26,” MSU women’s coach Sheila Green Gerding said. “We’ve gotta do a good job of containing her and not letting them get it in the post. Number one is stopping their transition game and making them work for what they get.”

The men’s team has the difficult task of slowing down the methodical, efficient offense of Upper Iowa, which diced up MSU for 53 percent shooting in an 84-56 win at the MSU Dome in January.

The Peacocks (18-10 overall, 14-8 NSIC) led by just two at halftime of that game, but outscored MSU 49-23 in the second frame.

MSU men’s coach Matt Murken said his squad should be better prepared to handle Upper Iowa’s disciplined approach this time around.

“They’re very good at taking advantage of your mistakes defensively and patient enough to wait for mistakes,” said Murken, whose team tips off against the Peacocks tonight at 7 in Fayette, Iowa. “One of the things that we’ve gotten much better on is our attention to detail and our scouting report.”

The Beaver men (10-16, 9-13) have increased their offensive production of late, with forward Josh Johnson (10.3 points per game) emerging as a consistent double-figure scorer along with junior guard E.J. Williams (11.5 ppg). Freshman point guard Dominique McDonald is third in scoring (9.6 ppg) and tops on the team in assists (3.3 apg).

“We’ve been getting better looks at the basket consistently on the offensive end,” Murken said. “We’ve gotta make sure we do that against (Upper Iowa). They play extremely hard and they are very, very good defensively. We’ve gotta have great ball movement and great player movement to get some easy looks.”

Green Gerding said her team will look to take away Augustana’s post production and second-chance opportunities and force the Vikings to knock down outside shots.

That’s something the Vikings are capable of doing. They’re fourth in the league with 36 percent 3-point shooting and all five starters have hit at least 17 triples this season.

“If they’re hot, then it won’t work in our favor, but you’ve gotta take something away,” Green Gerding said.

The winner of the first-round games will advance to play in the quarterfinals on Saturday.