Trust in E.J.

In both of Minot State University’s close games this season, E.J. Williams handled the ball plenty down the stretch.

Each time, the senior guard didn’t disappoint.

Williams scored 11 of his career-high 30 points in overtime Saturday to lead the undefeated Beavers to a 96-87 victory over in-state rival University of Mary in front of 1,527 at the MSU Dome. The game marked the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference opener for both teams.

Williams, a 6-footer from Raleigh, N.C., plays both guard positions, but was the primary ballhandler in overtime. With the Beavers in the double bonus, Williams cashed in on 9 of 10 foul shots in the extra period to finish 15 of 17 at the stripe.

“Being a captain of this team and a senior … I’ve been in situations,” Williams said. “It’s just a trust thing. Coaches, teammates – they have the trust in me and I give my hat off to them knowing they got trust in me.”

The Beavers’ 40-for-46 performance at the foul line rescued them against a Mary team that drilled 11 of 22 3-pointers. The Marauders (2-4 overall, 0-1 NSIC) finished a dismal 12 of 27 from the free-throw line, but had an opportunity to win it in regulation.

Senior forward Samuel Johnson missed a 3 on the Beavers’ final possession of regulation, giving the Marauders 11 seconds to break a 78-78 tie.

Mary senior Marc Musungayi drove baseline and missed a jump hook over two defenders and Johnson corralled the rebound just before the buzzer sounded.

“We got there early and we got him outside the lane, put our hands up, forced a tough shot,” Williams said. “That was the big shot to make us win the game.”

After Mary hit a free throw to start the scoring in OT, Williams rattled off six straight points – four free throws and a heavily contested fadeaway jump shot. His mini-run gave MSU (5-0, 1-0) an 84-79 advantage and the Marauders never got closer than three points the rest of the way.

Johnson finished with 19 points and sophomore guard Dominique McDonald added 12 and a game-high six assists.

“We’re getting better on the offensive end,” MSU coach Matt Murken said. “When we space it, we’re hard to guard because we have some guys who can knock in shots and some guys that are slashing to the basket. I thought it was a pretty good game by basically everybody who stepped out there offensively.”

Mary shot 49 percent for the game and was led by guards Damonta Henry and Devan Douglas, who finished with 18 points apiece.

MSU came in outrebounding opponents by an average of 18.5 per game. The Beavers held a much slimmer 39-35 edge against Mary, but came up with several crucial boards down the stretch.

“It was really a war and a battle on every rebound,” Murken said. “I thought, late, both teams were in a little foul trouble and the double bonus and it was gonna become which team could make the foul shots.”

The Beavers host Northern State (5-2, 0-1) Friday at 8 p.m.

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