‘Pass-first guy’

The Minot State University men’s basketball team continued its dominance of regional NAIA opponents Sunday, defeating Valley City State University 65-44 in front of 805 at the MSU Dome.

It was the Division II Beavers’ third consecutive 20-point win over an NAIA opponent. Perhaps an even bigger victory for MSU (4-0) was sophomore point guard Dominique McDonald playing like his old self.

In just his second game back after missing time with a fractured foot, the 6-footer from Raleigh, N.C., came off the bench and immediately contributed three assists in a two-minute span. McDonald finished with nine points and a team-high six assists, including five in the first half.

“The foot’s feeling a lot better,” said McDonald, who played 27 minutes after getting 16 on Nov. 17 against Presentation College. “I’m getting comfortable out there. Coach sees it, I see it, and that’s why I’m getting a little more time now. As we keep going, I’m getting more and more back into it, back in game shape.”

McDonald’s early stretch helped the Beavers turn an early 5-5 tie into a 19-11 advantage. McDonald threaded passes to E.J. Williams and Chris East for layups, found Thomas Korf on the wing for an open 3-pointer and knocked down a 3 of his own during that run.

“He is the one guy that we really have that we rely on to control tempo for us consistently, to make the right choices,” MSU coach Matt Murken said. “He understands our sets, our (out of bounds plays). He’s probably got the best understanding of any of our guards as far as our execution goes, so he’s a key piece for us to get the ball in the right spots consistently.”

VCSU (1-5) trailed 39-26 at halftime and never got within single digits in the second half. The Beavers held the Vikings to 26 percent shooting, including 17 percent after halftime.

“I think part of it was Valley just wasn’t as crisp offensively today as they normally are,” Murken said. “Part of that was our doing and part of it was when we did break down they didn’t make us pay as much in the second half.”

MSU senior forward Sam Johnson led a balanced scoring effort with 14 points. Williams chipped in 12 points, Korf had 10 and East tallied eight points and a game-high 10 boards. The Beavers won the rebounding battle 47-33.

MSU shot 43 percent for the game, and the Beavers looked their best offensively when McDonald was making plays.

“I’m definitely a pass-first guy,” McDonald said. “With this group we have now, we have a bunch of great shooters, scorers. Our bigs can finish a lot better than last year, too. I’m just looking to find everybody.”

MSU hosts in-state rival University of Mary at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference opener for both teams.

Daniel Allar covers Minot State University athletics. Follow him on Twitter @DAllar_MDN.