MSU holds off Blue Hawks in nonconference finale

Well, if it wasn’t the tryptophan, what was it that minimized the Minot State University women’s basketball team’s tenacity Sunday evening?

The Beavers lacked their regular vigor, but pulled out a closer-than-the-score-indicates 74-60 victory over Dickinson State before 887 at the MSU Dome.

“It just seemed like we didn’t have much energy tonight,” MSU coach Sheila Green Gerding said. “It seemed like we ran out of steam.

“I don’t even know what to attest that to. I’d say too much turkey, but it’s not Thanksgiving yet,” she added with a wry smile.

Senior forward Carly Boag posted game highs with 24 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Beavers. It marked her third double-double in four games this year. Junior Katie Hardy added a season-best 18 points to go with five boards and four assists. Boag had 16 at halftime, when MSU led 36-31.

The Beavers (4-0) built a 16-point lead by inducing six DSU turnovers in the first 3 minutes, 41 seconds after halftime.

But MSU snoozed through a six-minute span midway through the second half when the NAIA Division I Blue Hawks (5-2) cooked up an 18-2 run to tie the game at 53 with 8:03 remaining.

“They did a good job of fighting back,” Green Gerding said. “We didn’t get some things done offensively and we didn’t get stops defensively so they got back in the game.”

Namely, the Beavers stopped picking off passes and creating the turnovers that led to easy transition buckets.

That changed after the final media timeout – which came with 4:51 left and MSU ahead 59-57. The Beavers experimented with an aggressive, trapping zone and it produced the steals and easy points they had been missing for much of the half. MSU finished the game on a 15-3 spurt.

“We kind of realized that we really need to start going,” Hardy said. “I think our defense stepped up. We went a little zone and brought the intensity a little more and got a couple steals.”

Said Green Gerding: “We decided to give it (zone defense) a shot with five minutes left and I really think it was valuable for us tonight.”

Hardy hit a 10-foot jumper out of the timeout and junior Carly Elwin knocked down a 3-pointer – her only shot all night – two possessions later to extend the Beaver lead to 64-57 before MSU finished off the Blue Hawks with a few transition buckets and free throws.

Hardy had 10 in the second half, when DSU switched out of its 2-3 zone and began to front and collapse on Boag in a man-to-man scheme.

“I thought Minot State did a great job moving the basketball, getting open looks and stuff like that,” first-year DSU coach Mark Graupe said.

On one possession in the first half, Hardy – who shed 90 pounds in the offseason – caught the ball at midcourt, dribbled twice, crossed over and finished with a nifty layup. A sequence like that wouldn’t have crossed her mind a year ago, she said.

“Since I’ve kind of transformed a little, I’m able to do that a little more,” she said. “(I’m) a little quicker off the dribble, being able to push and pass the ball up the floor.”

The Beavers assisted on 24 of their 29 baskets, but committed 16 turnovers. Conversely, they forced DSU into 19 miscues.

TaRicka Linzy led three Blue Hawks in double figures with 23 points. She also notched seven steals, six assists and nine turnovers.

MSU begins Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference play at home Saturday against University of Mary. On a night when the Beavers shot 42 percent from the field, Green Gerding said it was their defense that kept them unbeaten heading into their conference opener.

“It really kind of came down to getting some stops defensively,” Green Gerding said. “When you’re struggling offensively, you gotta be solid on the defensive end.”

Ryan Holmgren covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.