Beavers prepared for back-to-back tests

The Minot State University men’s basketball team has maintained superb effort to open its season – as evidenced by the Beavers’ plus-15.6 average rebounding margin and 5-0 record.

This weekend, however, MSU will be confronted with a new task: playing with that intensity two nights in a row. That’s something the Beavers will have to get used to, as consecutive weekend games is the format the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference utilizes for the rest of the season.

“We’ve gotta find a way, whether you’re playing one game a week or two games back-to-back, to just play with a lot of energy and compete at a high level,” MSU coach Matt Murken said. “So far we’ve been good on that. It’ll be a new challenge this week doing it two days in a row.”

After beating the University of Mary 96-87 in overtime Saturday, MSU (5-0 overall, 1-0 NSIC) hosts Northern State at 8 tonight before welcoming Minnesota State-Moorhead at 6 p.m. Saturday.

The good thing for MSU is Northern State (5-2, 0-1) and Moorhead (5-0, 1-0) possess some similarities that make them easier to prepare for in one week. The bad: Those similarities are signs of good teams.

Both squads average more than 80 points per contest and have balanced scoring attacks. The Wolves have seven players who average 7.3 points or more, while the Dragons have eight who average eight points or more.

“They both have bigs that can score it in a lot of different ways and they both have guards that can shoot it,” Murken said. “The way they get to their shots is a little different in terms of the motion offense they run. If you have defensive breakdowns, they just don’t have many guys out there that can’t score it, so it’ll be a tough test for us on the defensive end.”

Murken said developing depth is particularly important with the back-to-back format the Beavers play the rest of the season. Sophomore guard Dominique McDonald is essentially a sixth starter – averaging 26 minutes and a team-high five assists off the bench. Sophomore wing Dan Yale played 12 solid minutes against Mary, knocking down both of his 3-point attempts.

“When we play the way we play – up and down and high-pressure offense and defense – it’s good to be able to put a guy in for two, three minutes to give one of our main guys a little rest periodically throughout the game,” said junior Matt Yale, a backup guard and Dan’s brother.

“Whether you play two minutes in the whole game or 10 minutes, that’s time that guys are getting to rest so we just need to come off the bench, give it our all so our offense doesn’t lose a step and our defense doesn’t lose a step because a bench guy is in. It just needs to stay at that same high intensity.”

The Beavers have already surpassed their win total from 2011-12 and are halfway to matching last season’s 10 victories.

“It gives us a little more confidence,” junior forward Adam Randall said of the early success. “We know that we probably haven’t played the strongest competition yet, so we’re still hungry. We’re ready to play the top of the NSIC.”

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