Minot State University took a gut punch, regrouped and delivered a knockout blow of its own on Friday.
After Northern State’s Alison Kusler drilled a buzzer-beating 3-pointer – her only make on eight attempts from long range – the Beavers rattled off the first seven points of overtime and held on for a 75-68 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference victory at the MSU Dome.
Senior forward Carly Boag led the Beavers (6-0 overall, 2-0 NSIC) with 21 points and 14 rebounds, and junior forward Katie Hardy scored five of her 16 points in the final minute of regulation plus overtime.
Hardy knocked down a pair of free throws to put MSU up three before Kusler’s 3, and then drove baseline for a basket with 1 minute, 23 seconds remaining in overtime. That bucket put MSU up 69-62 and forced Northern State (5-1, 1-1) to foul the rest of the way.
“She told me she wanted the ball,” MSU coach Sheila Green Gerding said. “We always ask them in the huddles who wants the ball, and Katie wanted the ball. I think it’s important to ask kids that. Some of them aren’t feeling like they’re having the best night and other kids want to take it over.”
Said Hardy: “I know that some people don’t wanna step up and take it, but I feel like it’s my role as a leader to grab the ball and do something with it at the end. Tonight it just went in for me.”
The Beavers led 44-31 with 16:23 remaining, but the Wolves packed the paint and forced MSU to beat them from the outside. Once the jump shots stopped falling, the Beavers suffered scoring droughts of five minutes and 4:32, allowing Northern State to tie the game with 2:40 remaining.
But for the second game in a row, the Beavers made plays down the stretch and pulled out a victory.
“We just regrouped as a group,” Boag said. “It’s not over ’til it’s over so we just had to come back with energy and make sure we finished the game.”
The Beavers’ starting five carried the load, averaging 37.4 minutes and scoring all but four of MSU’s points. Guards Alisha “Speedy” Jones and Morgan Klose had 19 and 13, respectively, to join Boag and Hardy in double figures. The other starter, junior forward Christina Boag, had just two points but finished with 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks.
“I think it’s a pretty solid starting five,” Green Gerding said. “I think our bench is very capable, but when we play very close games like that, we’re probably gonna go with our veteran players.”
Northern State placed five scorers in double figures, led by freshman guard Paige Waytashek with 15. But Wolves coach Curt Fredrickson said his team’s mediocre shooting night was too much to overcome. Northern State finished 35 percent from the field and 15-for-24 from the free-throw line.
“We were down 13 and came back and made a pretty good game of it, but the nine missed free throws and the shooting percentage we had, it’s not good enough to win,” he said.
MSU hosts Minnesota State-Moorhead (4-2, 0-2) at 4 p.m. today.
Daniel Allar covers Minot State University athletics. Follow him on Twitter @DAllar_MDN.