By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
Four minutes total - two minutes each night, or the same amount of time it takes to microwave a burrito, burnt the Montana State University-Northern men's basketball team in a pair of tough home losses this weekend at the MSU-Northern gymnasium.
Head coach Shawn Huse watched his team play solid basketball for the majority of both games, only to lose them on shots with time running out as Dickinson State and Minot State stole a pair of nonconference wins out from under the Lights.
"I'm not disappointed with the way we played other than for a couple of minutes both nights," Huse said. "I thought we played good basketball for the most part. We just made some mistakes in the final minutes of each game that cost us."
Actually, there were a few rough minutes to open the game against Dickinson State. The Bluehawks stormed to a 22-7 lead behind the hot shooting of Kasey Ulin. The DSU shooting guard scored 11 of his 21 first-half points as the Bluehawks seemed to be just a step quicker offensively and defensively than Northern.
"We knew coming in that they were going to pressure us more than the Canadian teams we played," Huse said. "It took us awhile to get used to their speed."
Huse called a couple timeouts, made some adjustments defensively and called some set plays to take advantage of DSU's defensive pressure.
Northern scored on several back-door plays to cut into the lead. A pair of three-pointers from Lamar Morinia and two baskets from Dustin Sawejka cut the lead to 29-20.
Reid Stovall's score inside got Northern within two at 40-38 with two minutes left in the first half. Larry Morinia's long three from the wing and Travis Moran's layup in transition gave the Lights their first lead at 43-42. Stovall's jumper at the halftime buzzer completed the comeback at 45-42.
"We took their initial hit and did a good job of coming back," Huse said. "I told them to stay composed and not get too excited. When you are behind you don't want to get flustered, you just stay within yourself."
Northern added to its score in the second half, grabbing a 10-point lead on another Stovall jumper with 14:44 remaining. But DSU wouldn't go away quietly. The Bluehawks pecked away at the lead as Beau Pilon scored eight points in a 16-7 DSU run that brought them within one at 68-67. Dickinson tied the score a minute later on one of two free throws from Pilon with six minutes left.
Dickinson retook the lead on a drive and three-pointer from Omar Smith and led until late in the game. Trailing 83-78 with just over two-minutes left, Northern rallied as Sawejka score inside and free throws from Trenton Harbaugh and Berhane Williams cut the lead to two. Lamar Morinia's driving layup tied the game at 83 with 37 seconds left.
The Bluehawks ran the clock down for one last shot to win the game, but Ulin's runner was long and game went into overtime.
In the overtime, the Lights grabbed an 91-87 lead behind eight points from Sawejka and Larry Morinia, but a pair of poor shots in the final minute and a half allowed Dickinson to creep into the game. A pair of free throws from Omar Smith cut the lead to two with 1:38 remaining.
Northern tried to run the shot clock down to take time off the game clock. The Lights ran isolation play for Lamar Morinia, but his tough mid-range jumper was partially blocked and Dickinson gained possession. The Bluehawks used the confusion of transition offense to find Pilon alone at the top of the key for a three-pointer with 2.7 seconds left.
Northern had one last shot, but the second pass on the inbounds play was bobbled and Northern never got a shot off.
"It was so important to score on our last possession," Huse said. "It would have allowed us to call timeout and get our defense set up. Lamar knew better as soon as that shot left his hand. But we learn from these things and one play didn't cost us the game."
Lamar Morinia finished with 25 points while Larry added 18 points. Sawejka and Stovall each scored 14 points apiece.
Ulin led DSU with 25 points while Pilon added 16 off the bench.
On Saturday night, Northern handled the Minot State Beavers, ranked 16th in NAIA Division II, for much of the game. The Lights opened the game with a Lamar Morinia three-pointer and never trailed the entire first half. With a 45-42 lead late in the first half, Dustin Sawejka's emphatic dunk keyed an 8-0 run just before halftime to give Northern a 58-49 halftime lead.
However, Minot steadily whittled away at the lead in the second half. Still, Northern maintained a minimum of a five-point-lead and took a 103-94 lead with 26.8 seconds left in the game on pair of free throws from Zach McLean. Minot answered with a three-pointer from Jeff Brandt to cut the lead to six points. Another Northern turnover gave Minot the ball back and Kent Bloms sank a three-pointer to trim the lead to 103-100.
The Lights struggled to get the ball in bounds following Blom's three, giving the Beavers the ball back. Bloms rebounded Brandt's missed three-pointer, layed it in and drew a foul with less than five seconds remaining and trailing 103-102. Bloms missed the game-tying free throw, but the ball bounced out of bounds last touched by a Light player. Minot drew up in inbounds play and Qasim Ward was able to get free to score the game winner as the buzzer sounded.
Huse was obviously unhappy with the outcome, but more unpleasing was Northern's execution in the final minute when it couldn't get the ball inbounds cleanly. That allowed Minot to get steals rather than being forced to foul.
"We go over all those little things in practice," Huse said. "But wed didn't execute our inbound plays properly. We took some shortcuts instead. You can preach and preach about it, but until they see the importance of execution to be perfect, it's tough to understand."
The loss overshadowed a strong offensive performance by Northern. The Lights used relentless defensive pressure to ignite their transition game, helping them shoot 57 percent (35-61) from the field for the game, including 73 percent (11-15) from three-point range.
"We wanted to offset their size with our speed and try to make it an ugly game," Huse said. "We really forced the tempo make it a high-scoring game. We executed very well and our offense just clicked."
Dustin Sawejka led a group of five Northern players in double figures with 22 points. Lamar Morinia scored 20 points and dished out four assists, while his brother Larry chipped in with 19 points. Trenton Harbaugh scored 14 points despite foul trouble and Berhane Williams added 10 points and five rebounds.
Brandt led Minot with 21 points, including five three-pointers. Lloyd Flanders added 19 points while Bloms finished with 13 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
"We have nothing to hang our heads about," Huse said. "I'm very proud of the way these kids played. They left everything they had, their hearts and souls, on the floor. When you come up short it's hard. We've all beat ourselves up over this, but we have to move forward. There's a lot more season in front of us, than behind us.
DICKINSON STATE (92)
Omar Smith 2-4 2-3 7; Cameron Rowland 4-8 2-2 10; Scott Klaudt 3-9 1-1 9; Kasey Ulin 8-16 6-6 25; Jake Schmitz 3-5 0-2 6; Josh McLeod 2-3 2-2 7; Konrad Tota 4-7 0-0 10; Beau Pilon 6-8 3-6 16; Senad Cimic 1-2 0-0 16. Totals: 33-63 16-22 92.
Larry Morinia 6-11 4-4 18; Lamar Morinia 8-12 4-5 25; Berhane Williams 2-8 2-4 7; Dustin Sawejka 5-10 4-5 14; Trenton Harbaugh 1-3 1-1 3; Zach McLean 0-1 0-0 0; Leo Bullchild 0-5 0-0 0; Reid Stovall 6-8 2-2 14; Landen Grant 2-2 2-2 7; Travis Moran 1-2 1-2 3. Totals: 31-62 20-24 91.
Halftime: MSUN 45, DSU 42. Regulation: MSUN 83, DSU 83. Three point goals: DSU 10-13 (Smith 1-1, Klaudt 2-2, Ulin 3-5, McLeod 1-1, Tota 2-3, Pilon 1-1), MSUN 9-14 (Larry Morinia 2-3, Lamar Morinia 5-7, Williams 1-1, McLean 0-1, Bullchild 0-1, Grant 1-1). Rebounds: DSU 29 (Ulin 11); MSUN 35 (Sawejka 9) Assists: DSU 6 (Rowland 4); MSUN 13 (Bullchild 3, Larry Morinia 3). Total fouls: DSU 26, MSUN 17. Fouled out - none; Technicals - none.
MINOT STATE (104)
Lawrence Conner 1-3 0-0 2; Qasim Ward 3-5 4-6 10; Chad Jacobson 4-10 3-4 12; Steve Grabowski 3-5 2-2 9; Jeff Brandt 8-14 0-0 21; Lloyd Flanders 6-9 6-8 19; Khalid Loda 6-6 0-1 12; Kent Bloms 5-8 2-3 13; Lance Allerdings 1-2 2-2 4; Jeremy Feller 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 38-63 19-26 104.
Larry Morinia 4-9 7-8 19; Reid Stovall 1-4 1-3 3; Lamar Morinia 7-12 2-2 20; Berhane Williams 4-6 2-2 10; Trenton Harbaugh 5-7 4-8 14; Zach McLean 0-0 2-2 2; Leo Bullchild 1-1 0-0 3; Walter Runsabove 1-1 0-0 3; Landen Grant 1-3 0-0 2; Travis Moran 2-4 1-1 5. Totals: 35-61 22-30 103.
Halftime: MSUN 58, MSU 49. Three point goals: MSU 9-14 (Conner 0-1, Jacobson 1-1, Grabowski 1-2, Brandt 5-8, Flanders 1-1, Bloms 1-1), MSUN 11-15 (Larry Morinia 4-5, Lamar Morinia 4-6, Sawejka 1-2, McLean 1-1, Runsabove 1-1). Rebounds: MSU 33 (Bloms 10); MSUN 27 (Lamar Morinia 6) Assists: 12 (Bloms 3); MSUN 18 (Lamar Morinia 4). Total fouls: MSU 27, MSUN 23. Fouled out - none; Technicals - none.