SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Minnesota State Moorhead outlasted Minnesota State Mankato in double overtime Friday night in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference men's basketball quarterfinals at the Sanford Pentagon.
Moments after that dramatic 73-61 victory, the Dragons found out they were advancing directly to the tournament championship game as Wayne State was announced out of the tournament due to COVID-19 protocols.
"As a coach, you are happy for your guys because you're in the finals, but as a human being you feel awful for Wayne State," said Dragons head coach Chad Walthall, whose team had four games canceled during the regular season due to COVID-19. "I don't know how you are supposed to feel. We went through it and it's painful."
Lorenzo McGhee and Gavin Baumgartner each scored 21 points as the Dragons outlasted Mankato in a defensive slugfest in the quarterfinals. Moorhead shot 37% (26 of 71) from the floor for the game, but scored the final 12 points in the second overtime to earn the victory.
"Everybody just buckled down and we finished the game," said McGhee, who also grabbed eight rebounds. "We got the job done and that was the ultimate goal."
The Dragons (10-3) have won 10 of their past 11 games. They were slated to play Wayne State on Saturday in the NSIC semifinals before the news broke that the Wildcats were out of the tournament due to COVID-19. Moorhead plays the Northern State-Minot State winner at 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 28, for the tournament championship.
Walthall said his team was fortunate to advance with the way it's performed offensively. However, the Dragons limited Mankato to 32% (25 of 79) shooting from the field.
"When you struggle like that in a tournament shooting the ball 99 times out of 100, you're probably going to get beat," Walthall said. "This is a connected group, this is a special group. ... If we weren't very good defensively tonight, obviously it would have been a loss. Our defense hung on and that's the great thing about defense, you can win games like this."
Mankato guard Quincy Anderson scored off a rebound to tie the score at 61-61 with 3 minutes, 28 seconds to play in the second overtime. The Dragons dug in defensively from that point, while senior forward Gatdoar Kueth scored the next four points to spark a 12-0 run to close out the game.
The 6-foot-6 Kueth scored inside the paint to give Moorhead a 63-61 lead with 3:00 remaining and added two foul shots with 1:41 to play. Kueth finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
"Gat, he's just a very gifted offensive player and has really improved his defense, too," Walthall said. "I'm proud of all the guys just hanging in."
The Dragons limited Mankato to six points combined in the two five-minute overtimes.
"I thought defensively we were fantastic," Walthall said. "As a coach, it was beautiful to watch defensively, and as beautiful as it was to watch defensively, it was ugly offensively."
The Dragons led by as many as 14 points in the second half, taking a 40-26 lead after Baumgartner scored a 3-point play with 16:25 to play in the second half. The Moorhead offense later came to a screeching halt, nearly going seven minutes without scoring a point.
"Mankato, what a defensive performance by them," Walthall said. "We've had no issue scoring the ball and they were phenomenal and I want to give credit to them. They were well prepared and didn't go away."
The Mavericks rallied by scoring 13 consecutive points, taking a 50-48 lead after a Jamal Dixon tip-in with 5:15 to play in the second half. From that point, neither team was able to build more than a two-point lead until the Dragons pulled away in the second overtime.
"We were as locked in and did as well defensively and we have in the last couple years," Walthall said. "It was beautiful to watch."
McGhee and Baumgartner combined for 21 points in the halftime to help the Dragons build a 12-point halftime lead. Baumgartner sank a 3-pointer with 7 seconds remaining in the first half to give Moorhead a 33-21 edge, which it carried into halftime.
MANKATO (10-7): Holt 2-12 0-1 4, Anderson 5-20 1-3 12, Thedford 2-12 0-0 4, Willingham 6-18 0-0 16, Kramer 5-6 3-4 13, Nixon 1-3 0-0 2, Williams 3-4 1-1 8, McDermott 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 25-79 5-9 61.
MOORHEAD (10-3): McGhee 8-15 4-4 21, Baumgartner 9-15 1-1 21, Irsfeld 1-10 7-8 9, Zimmer 1-6 0-0 3, Kueth 6-15 2-2 14, Myren 0-3 0-0 0, Sem 0-0 0-4 0, Sevlie 1-3 2-2 5, Bergh 0-0 0-0 0, Beeninga 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 26-71 16-21 73.
Half: Moorhead 33, Mankato 21. Regulation: Moorhead 55, Mankato 55. Overtime: Moorhead 59, Mankato 59. 3-point goals: Mankato 6-25 (Holt 0-3, Anderson 1-6, Thedford 0-1, Willingham 4-11, Nixon 0-1, Williams 1-2, McDermott 0-1), Moorhead 5-21 (McGhee 1-3, Baumgartner 2-4, Irsfeld 0-2, Zimmer 1-4, Kueth 0-4, Sevlie 1-2, Beeninga 0-2). Total fouls: Mankato 19, Moorhead 14. Fouled out: Zimmer. Rebounds: Mankato 52 (Kramer 19), Moorhead 49 (McGhee 8). Assists: Mankato 12 (Anderson 4), Moorhead 6 (Irsfeld 4). Turnovers: Mankato 14 (Thedford 4), Moorhead 11 (Baumgartner 4).