Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Big Game 1-8-12: Minnesota Men Bounce Back

Unfortunately, no, I'm not talking about the Minnesota Gophers. Rather, I'm talking about the Minnesota teams in the Northern Sun. In December, the 8 Minnesota schools in the NSIC won 14 games while losing 7 to the 6 teams located in other states. In 3 rounds of January play, it was Minnesota 6 North and South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska 5.

But on Saturday January 7 the "other guys" won 3 games while losing 2. Moorhead State took its 1st loss of the year to Mary 72-51, thus falling out of sole possession of 1st place. Less surprising were UM-Crookston's loss at Northern State 80-77 and Bemidji's loss at Augustana 103-93. St. Cloud State, meanwhile, defeated Upper Iowa 74-68 and UMD beat Wayne State 74-71.

So, overall, the Minnesotans are accustomed to success, but not like this. Today it was Minnesota 5 "other" 0, with all 5 games played elsewhere. Still, 3 of the Minnesota wins were more or less as expected:

Moorhead (now 8-1, tied for 1st place) defeated Northern (5-5), 81-74, as guards D.J. Hamilton, Charlie Chapman and Jordan Riewer combined for 55 points on 16-of-29 shooting, including 7-of-14 on 3-pioint shots.

Bemidji (now 6-3, 4th tie) defeated Wayne State (3-7), 67-61, as James Ellisor and Lance Rongstad scored 16 points apiece and the Beavers shot 57 percent from the field.

Concordia (St. Paul) (still just 3-6, 9th tie) beat Upper Iowa (1-8), 84-73, thanks to a 35-10 run spanning 12:30 of the 2nd half. Peter and Kenny Olafeso combined for 39 points and 11 assists for the Bears.

But 2 of the 5 wins could be considered to be upsets:

UM-Crookston pulled off a bit of a surprise, gaining its 1st conference win of the season over Mary (2-9), 56-53, as Jacolby Anderson scored 27 points.

The highlight game, however, saw the UMD Bulldogs (now 6-3, 4th tie) knock off the Augies of Augustana in a 101-99 thriller. The Augies were the pre-season favorite in the NSIC but now have slumped to 6-4 (7th place). This was a game of surge and counter-surge. UMD took an early lead and led by as many as 9 at 12:31 of the 1st half. By half-time, Augie had not only caught up but took a 4-point lead 47-43. Its largest lead was 8 at 61-53 at 15:11 of the 2nd half. But UMD played 7:30 of nearly flawless ball to lead by as many as 8 on several occasions, the last at 96-88 at 3:48. Augie stormed back to within 2 at 100-98 with still 1 minute to go, but a Cody Schilling turnover just about sealed it.

Schilling continued in probably the 1st shooting slump of his life, hitting 5-of-13 shots for 16 points, while running mates at guard, Cameron McCaffrey and Drae Murray combined for 47 points on 16-of-23 shooting. He (Schilling) is averaging 15.5 ppg this year after scoring more than 21 a year ago.

Jake Hottenstine led UMD with 31 points and 8 rebounds, while Ryan Rasmussen and Brett Ervin scored 19 and Reece Zoelle 17 points. Duluth shot an unconscious 62 percent (41-for-66) from the field.

In the one all-Minnesota game, host Winona defeated St. Cloud 87-77 to retain a share of 1st place at 8-1. St. Cloud falls to 3rd at 7-2. Grant Johnson scored 28 points for the winners.

Player of the Day

Jake Hottenstine, UMD 31 points 8 rebounds

Coach of the Day

Chad Walthall, Moorhead State, and Mike Leaf, Winona State, who have their teams tied for 1st in the NSIC

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