MOORHEAD — Minnesota State Moorhead sophomore guard Bryce Irsfeld had a potential game-tying 3-pointer rim out with about a minute to play Friday night at Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse.
Moments after the miss, Dragons head coach Chad Walthall and Minnesota-Duluth head coach Justin Wieck, a former Walthall assistant coach, glanced at each other and smiled.
"The game is a little bit finicky," Walthall said.
Brandon Myer scored a game-high 26 points to help the Bulldogs hold off the Dragons for a 77-70 victory in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference men's basketball before 1,020 fans.
"They've got who I think is the MVP of the league and he made some plays down the stretch," Walthall said of Myer. "I was proud of our effort. I have no complaints about our effort. We might be a couple in-and-outs from having a different outcome."
The Dragons (11-8, 7-6 NSIC) had their two-game winning streak snapped. UMD (15-4, 10-3) scored eight of the game's final 10 points to secure the victory.
"We just made a couple more shots than they did, I don't know if it was anything more than that," said Wieck, who was a Dragons assistant before he took over at UMD. "It's the nature of our league, you've got to have some bounces go your way."
The Dragons took a 65-64 lead after Gavin Baumgartner sank a 3-pointer with 5 minutes, 25 seconds to play in the second half. That was MSUM's only lead in the final 20 minutes as the Dragons rallied from a 12-point halftime deficit.
"Defensively, we did some things a little bit better," Baumgartner said of MSUM's second-half rally. "We battled, got stops and ran some good action on offense."
The Bulldogs countered with the next five points to take the lead for good. Myer sank two foul shots to give UMD a 69-65 lead with 2:59 remaining. Baumgartner answered with another 3-pointer to slice the UMD lead to 69-68 with 2:47 remaining.
Moments later, Baumgartner got a clean look at a 3-pointer from the top of the key that rimmed out with the Bulldogs holding that one-point lead with around two minutes remaining. Myer then sank a contested pull-up jumper that pushed the UMD lead to 71-68 with 1:14 to play.
"I think he's the best player in the league, you can debate a couple other guys probably that are really good, but he's right there," Wieck said.
The Dragons had a chance to erase that three-point deficit moments later when Irsfeld's open 3-point look was off the mark.
"I know Bryce had an open shot that he makes 60% of the time," Wieck said.
The Bulldogs scored nine of the final 11 points of the first half to take a double-digit lead into halftime. Senior guard Logan Rohrscheib sparked the rally with a 4-point play from the wing that gave UMD a 38-29 lead with 2:06 to play in the half. He later added a 3-pointer with 48 seconds remaining that gave the Bulldogs a 43-31 lead, which they took into halftime.
UMD shot 50% (16 of 32) from the floor in the opening 20 minutes. The 6-foot-2 Rohrscheib had 13 points in the first half on 4-for-5 shooting from the floor, making all four of his 3-point attempts. He finished with 18 points.
Baumgartner and junior forward Joe Sevlie paced the Dragons with 14 points apiece.
"This team is getting better, but we can't let this game affect our next game," Walthall said. "We've got to play the way we did in the second half and we'll be fine."
UMD (15-4, 10-3 NSIC): Myer 7-15 10-11 26, Illkainen 6-12 0-0 14, Rohrscheib 5-7 3-3 18, Entwisle 0-2 2-2 2, Blair 6-13 0-0 12, Plamann 1-3 0-0 2, Middleton 0-2 0-0 0, Gorres 0-0 0-0 0, Steffen 1-3 1-1 3, Olcay 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-57 16-17 77.
MSUM (11-8, 7-6): Rusch 0-3 0-0 0, Zimmer 4-5 0-1 8, Beeninga 2-7 1-1 5, Baumgartner 5-13 0-2 14, Williams 4-9 2-4 11, Irsfeld 5-9 1-2 12, Sevlie 5-5 4-6 14, Hanson 1-6 4-4 6, Rund 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 26-58 12-20 70.
Half: UMD 43, MSUM 31. 3-point goals: UMD 9-22 (Myer 2-4, Illkainen 2-4, Rohrscheib 5-6, Entwisle 0-2, Blair 0-5, Plamann 0-1), MSUM 6-21 (Rusch 0-2, Beeninga 0-2, Baumgartner 4-10, Williams 1-1, Irsfeld 1-3, Hanson 0-2, Rund 0-1). Total fouls: UMD 20, MSUM 18. Rebounds: UMD 34 (Myer 7), MSUM 35 (Zimmer 11). Assists: UMD 6 (Rohrscheib 2, Entwisle 2), MSUM 13 (Beeninga 5). Turnovers: UMD 13, MSUM 14.