DULUTH, Minn. — In a game that involved 89 free-throw attempts, Minnesota State Moorhead sophomore Dane Zimmer had an impactful night without scoring a point from the foul line.
Zimmer scored a career-high 27 points to help the Dragons earn a 103-95 victory against Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference men's basketball at Romano Gymnasium.
Zimmer scored his game-high point total on 12-for-14 shooting from the field as he missed the lone foul shot he attempted. The 6-foot-7 Zimmer also shot 75% (3 of 4) from 3-point range in his 22 minutes.
"His game offensively has consistently improved as his confidence has grown," Dragons head coach Chad Watlhall said. "That is pretty typical with big guys. He's a very good basketball player. High basketball IQ."
The Dragons (6-2, 6-0 North) have won six consecutive games and are tied for first place in the North Division with Northern State. MSUM hasn't lost since Jan. 3 after starting the season with consecutive losses against the Augustana Vikings.
"We're playing pretty good basketball right now," Zimmer said. "We've got a lot of dudes. It can be somebody new on any night of the week. We just have to keep going."
The game was saturated with foul shots in the second half (64 total free throws) with both teams being called for 20 fouls each over the final 20 minutes. The Dragons were 26 of 36 from the foul line after halftime, while the Bulldogs were 18 of 28 on free throws in the second half. The teams combined for 61 fouls overall.
"There is just no flow on either side. It tends to start being a free-throw contest," Walthall said of the second half. "There is no flow so when that happens, you just have to do the best you can. The game is the game."
The Dragons made their move near the end of the first half. They scored 15 consecutive points during one stretch to surge into the lead for good. That rally helped build a five-point halftime advantage.
"It was pretty important to end the first half hot and to come back in the second half and keep it rolling," Zimmer said. "We know that they're a good team and they're hungry."
Senior forward Gatdoar Kueth scored seven consecutive points during that momentum-changing run, while Zimmer added two 3-pointers. Zimmer capped the flurry with a 3-point shot that gave the Dragons a 45-37 lead with 2 minutes, 31 seconds to play in the first half.
"He's been able to shoot 3s, he just hasn't looked to shoot them," Walthall said. "We have confidence in him and give him the freedom to shoot them."
Zimmer scored 22 points in the first half on 10-of-12 shooting from the floor to help MSUM build a 51-46 lead into halftime. The Dragons held the lead at halftime, despite UMD shooting 61% (17 of 28) from the field in the opening 20 minutes.
The Dragons never trailed in the second half, leading by as many on 14 points on multiple occasions after halftime.
MSUM had six different players score in double digits to complete the two-game weekend road sweep against the Bulldogs. Kueth added 15 points and eight rebounds, while junior guard Lorenzo McGhee chipped in 14 points, four rebounds and two assists.
Walthall said he likes his variety of options in honing in on a nine-player rotation on any given night.
"I feel very comfortable throwing 11, 12 guys in there, but we don't," Walthall said. "You want to find a rhythm. We have very good starters and the bench is pretty good, too."
MSUM (6-2, 6-0 North): McGhee 3-9 8-8 14, Baumgartner 2-5 6-8 7, Irsfeld 3-7 5-5 14, Zimmer 12-14 0-1 27, Kueth 3-6 7-8 15, Myren 3-4 3-3 9, Sem 0-1 1-2 1, Sevlie 1-4 0-0 3, Bergh 2-2 6-12 10, Beeninga 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 29-54 36-47 103.
UMD (2-3, 1-3): Brown 4-9 3-4 13, Lea 2-4 2-2 7, Blair 11-21 2-4 26, Katona 2-5 7-11 11, Andrews 2-3 3-9 7, Steffen 1-4 1-1 3, Soumis 0-0 0-0 0, Sutherland 3-5 3-5 10, Middleton 5-10 5-6 18. Totals 30-61 26-43 95.
Half: MSUM 51, UMD 46. 3-point goals: MSUM 9-21 (McGhee 0-2, Baumgartner 1-3, Irsfeld 2-5, Zimmer 3-4, Kueth 2-3, Sevlie 1-2, Beeninga 0-1), UMD 9-24 (Brown 2-5, Lea 1-2, Blair 2-6, Katona 0-1, Steffen 0-2, Sutherland 1-1, Middleton 3-7). Total fouls: MSUM 31, UMD 30. Fouled out: Irsfeld, Zimmer, Lea, Katona, Andrews, Steffen. Rebounds: MSUM 37 (Kueth 8), UMD 34 (Andrews 10). Assists: MSUM 20 (Baumgartner 7, Irsfeld 7), UMD 13 (Blair 4). Turnovers: MSUM 8 (McGhee 2), UMD 8 (Brown 3).