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Kretchman has big second half to lead Dragons to comeback victory

MOORHEAD—Minnesota State Moorhead head men's basketball coach Chad Walthall thought Dragons senior guard Tanner Kretchman was at his finest Friday night at Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse.

Kretchman poured in 22 of his team-high 24 points in the second half to help lift the Dragons to an 81-78 comeback victory against Minnesota-Crookston in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference men's basketball before 1,208 fans.

"I told him it was the best performance he's ever had and it had nothing to do with numbers," Walthall said. "He was struggling all game and then he just put us on his back and so that's why I think it's the best performance he's ever had."

The Dragons (4-5, 2-1 NSIC) trailed by as many as 12 points with less than seven minutes remaining before they rallied. Kretchman scored 17 points in the final nine minutes.

"We really battled. It wasn't looking too good for us and they had kind of control of the game," Kretchman said. "We stuck together. It shows what this team has become. We're starting to figure some things out and we're growing as a team."

Kretchman gave the Dragons a 79-78 lead after draining a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 34 seconds remaining in the second half. That marked the first time MSUM led in the second half. Kretchman was 7 of 10 from the field after halftime, including 3-for-3 shooting from 3-point range.

"It was just staying confident," Kretchman said. "Our whole offense is based off of confidence."

The Golden Eagles took a 74-62 lead after Harrison Cleary sank two free throws with 6:12 remaining. The Dragons countered with 12 consecutive points to claw back into contention. Kretchman scored seven points during that critical scoring spree, including a 17-foot jumper that tied the score at 74-74 with 2:52 remaining.

The Golden Eagles took a 78-76 lead after junior guard Darin Viken sank two foul shots with 54 seconds to play. That set the stage for Kretchman's clutch 3-pointer. The Dragons scored the game's final five points, including Johnny Beeninga's two free throws that gave MSUM an 81-78 edge with four seconds remaining.

"It's huge, especially in this conference," Kretchman said. "Every win is a great win. They're a good team. They're tough, their two guards are special."

UMC's starting backcourt, Cleary and Alan Hodge, combined for 52 points. Cleary had a game-high 31, while Hodge added 21.

Golden Eagles head coach Dan Weisse is a former MSUM assistant coach.

"Hats off to Crookston. I know this is not satisfying for Dan because he's looking for wins," Walthall said. "He's done a great job. They have two of the best scoring guards in the league. ... We just kept fighting."

UMC (5-5, 2-2 NSIC): Cleary 11-21 5-5 31, Hodge 7-17 2-3 21, Juhl 3-10 1-2 7, Smith 3-5 0-0 6, Knickerbocker 2-5 1-1 7, Viken 0-0 2-2 2, Nicolau 2-4 0-0 4. Totals 28-62 11-13 78.

MSUM (4-5, 2-1): Beeninga 7-15 7-8 21, Kretchman 8-16 5-6 24, Anderson 4-7 1-4 9, Hines 2-5 0-0 6, Park 2-5 0-1 4, Nywesh 4-5 0-0 9, Bussman 0-1 0-0 0, Johnson 1-1 0-0 2, Sevlie 3-5 0-0 6. Totals 31-60 13-19 81.

Half: UMC 44, MSUM 39. 3-point goals: UMC 11-22 (Cleary 4-6, Hodge 5-8, Juhl 0-3, Smith 0-1, Knickerbocker 2-4), MSUM 6-15 (Beeninga 0-2, Kretchman 3-5, Anderson 0-2, Hines 2-3, Nywesh 1-2, Bussman 0-1). Total fouls: UMC 17, MSUM 17. Technical foul: MSUM bench. Rebounds: UMC 31 (Smith 7), MSUM 37 (Hines 7). Assists: UMC 8 (Cleary 3), MSUM 9 (Beeninga 3). Steals: UMC 6 (Smith 3), MSUM 6 (Kretchman 3). Turnovers: UMC 12 (Hodge 4), MSUM 10 (Anderson 3). A--1,208.

Eric Peterson
Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.

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