MSU looking to finish plays, snap skid

Film study and tactical adjustments are necessary parts of college athletics, but mastering those techniques doesn’t ensure success.

Eventually, the onus is on players to finish plays, Minot State University men’s basketball coach Matt Murken said.

“It sounds like a broken record, but our consistency has gotta be better, our defensive intensity has gotta be more consistent and we just have to finish plays,” he said. “There comes a point in time where we know what they’re gonna do and execute what we’re gonna do, but at the end of that possession you just have to have a guy step up and make a shot. … We’re just not doing that consistently enough right now.”

After starting the season 5-0, the Beavers have lost eight of their last nine games and haven’t beaten a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference opponent other than the University of Mary. They’ll look to get back on track this weekend against Minnesota Duluth (6-8 overall, 4-6 NSIC) and St. Cloud State (11-3, 7-3).

“I thought that we were too satisfied when we won those games earlier in the season,” MSU senior forward Chris East said. “We just need to stay positive and just play the way we play.”

MSU (6-8, 2-8) took some positives in its last defeat, a 78-64 loss Saturday at then-No. 21 Winona State. The Beavers hung with the Warriors for the first 30 minutes before a late run put the contest out of reach.

“We were really active on the defensive end,” Murken said. “We really protected the basket … and our on-ball defense was better and our off-ball defensive rotation was much better. It’s something to build on there.”

Said junior guard Thomas Korf: “We switched a little bit of the defensive technique, played back in a little bit more of a pack. I think if we do that, we can hang with anybody.”

Duluth, which visits Friday, beat MSU 81-74 in December. The Bulldogs boast an experienced starting backcourt that accounts for 66 percent of their points. Slowing down high-scoring guards Jordan Reetz (16.3 points per game), Peter Crawford (15.9 ppg) and Reece Zoelle (14.5 ppg) will be the Beavers’ top priority.

“They do a nice job of moving and we really have to be on our toes defensively,” Murken said. “Our ability to defend them and make them miss shots allows us to be in transition and that’s still where we’re at our best offensively is when we can be in the open court a little bit.”

SCSU will present an even greater challenge. The Huskies, a perennial contender in the NSIC, drubbed MSU 97-73 on Dec. 12.

Korf said he’s confident the Beavers can turn things around.

“We just need to focus on playing our style of defense, just rebounding and doing the little things,” Korf said. “If we do that, both games are winnable games for us.”

Provided the Beavers convert more of their opportunities.

“We don’t need any

certain guy to start averaging 20 and that’s probably not gonna happen,” Murken said. “We just need every guy that’s out there to finish one more play – whether that’s finishing a layup, hitting an open jump shot or a pull-up jumper – it’s just finishing one more play.”

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