MOORHEAD — Minnesota State Moorhead leading scorer Gavin Baumgartner didn't score his first points until the final six minutes and didn't make his first shot from the field until the final minute Tuesday night at Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse.

The timing couldn't have been better for the Dragons.

Baumgartner sank a clutch 3-pointer with less than a minute remaining to help MSUM earn a 75-65 victory against the Northern State Wolves in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference men's basketball opener for both teams. The Dragons had a six-point lead when Baumgartner made his key field goal that helped ice the outcome.

"In those moments, you expect your leaders to step up and hit those shots," Dragons head coach Chad Walthall said. "Gavin has stepped up and hit those big shots his whole career."

The Dragons (5-3, 1-0) have won three consecutive games and five of their past six after starting the season with back-to-back losses. MSUM shot 62% percent (29 of 47) from the floor and held off the Wolves, who made a strong second-half charge after trailing by as many as 17 points in the first half.

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Minnesota State University Moorhead's Gavin Baumgartner drives to the basket past Northern State's Jordan Belka at Alex Nemzek on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
Minnesota State University Moorhead's Gavin Baumgartner drives to the basket past Northern State's Jordan Belka at Alex Nemzek on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. David Samson / The Forum


Dragons guard Lorenzo McGhee and forward Dane Zimmer each scored 17 points to lead MSUM, which had 10 different players score points. The 6-foot-7 Zimmer also grabbed 12 rebounds. McGhee and Zimmer combined to make 15 of 18 shots (83%) from the floor.

"We’ve got a lot of good guys who can score," said McGhee, who made 7 of 9 shots from the field. "The coach preaches any night can be your night. ... Coach preaches a lot of humility. It takes humility with a lot of those good players to come together."

West Fargo Sheyenne graduate Jacksen Moni had a stellar performance for Northern State. The 6-foot-10 true freshman poured in a game-high 22 points on 7-for-12 shooting from the floor. He also grabbed six rebounds.

"He was outstanding," Walthall said. "He’s hard to guard because he’s so tall. You can be there on the catch and he can shoot right over you."

 Northern State's Jacksen Moni looks for an opening against Minnesota State University Moorhead's Lorenzo McGhee at Alex Nemzek on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
Northern State's Jacksen Moni looks for an opening against Minnesota State University Moorhead's Lorenzo McGhee at Alex Nemzek on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. David Samson / The Forum


Moni's 4-point play cut the MSUM lead to 44-43 with 13 minutes, 22 seconds to play in the second half. Moments later, Wolves guard Kailleb Walton-Branden scored on a drive to the basket to cut the MSUM lead to 46-45 with 12:18 remaining.

The Dragons countered with the next nine points to push their lead into double digits in a game in which they never trailed. McGhee sparked that run with a 3-pointer. MSUM guard Jacob Beeninga capped the surge with a basket that gave his team a 55-45 lead with 9:50 remaining.

"It was just keeping our heads and keeping our composure," McGhee said. "We stressed keeping our composure."

Northern State cut the Dragons lead to 69-63 after Jordan Belka hit a turnaround jumper with 1:41 remaining. That set the stage for Baumgartner's 3-pointer that came with the shot clock waning and gave MSUM a 72-63 lead with 52 seconds remaining. Baumgartner, who was averaging 13.6 points per game heading into Tuesday's game, scored all six of his points in the game's final six minutes.

Northern State head men's basketball coach Saul Phillips reacts during play against Minnesota State University Moorhead at Alex Nemzek on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
Northern State head men's basketball coach Saul Phillips reacts during play against Minnesota State University Moorhead at Alex Nemzek on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. David Samson / The Forum


Northern State shot 36% (23 of 64) from the field and 16% (5 of 31) from 3-point range.

“Our defensive awareness was really, really good," Walthall said. "That was probably our top thing. We really did a nice job executing the plan. Our defense was the thing that won us the game."

The Dragons locked down the Wolves for most of the first half, building a 23-6 lead after forward Gatdoar Kueth scored a basket with 6:10 remaining in the first half. Kueth's basket capped a run of 13 consecutive MSUM points. The 6-foot-6 Kueth also started that scoring spree with a basket in the paint.

"We really wanted to make them uncomfortable," McGhee said. "We thought that was a team that played well when they’re comfortable."

Minnesota State University Moorhead's Lorenzo McGhee shoots against Northern State's  Jordan Belka at Alex Nemzek on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
Minnesota State University Moorhead's Lorenzo McGhee shoots against Northern State's Jordan Belka at Alex Nemzek on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. David Samson / The Forum


The Wolves countered with 12 of the next 16 points, including a Kobe Busch free throw that trimmed the Dragons lead to 27-18 with 2:09 until halftime.

McGhee scored on a drive down the middle of the lane in the closing seconds of the first half to give MSUM a 32-24 lead at halftime. McGhee had nine points in the first half on 4-for-5 shooting from the field. The Dragons shot 54% (14 of 26) from the floor in the opening half. MSUM shot a sizzling 71% (15 of 21) from the floor in the second half.

"We’re still trying to find our offensive identity. We’re getting there," Walthall said.

"As long as we play defense like that every night, I like our chances," McGhee added.

Minnesota State University Moorhead's Gabe Myren scores against Northern State's Kobe Busch at Alex Nemzek on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
Minnesota State University Moorhead's Gabe Myren scores against Northern State's Kobe Busch at Alex Nemzek on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. David Samson / The Forum


NSU (4-3, 0-1 NSIC): Reede 2-10 2-2 7, Moni 7-12 5-9 22, Belka 3-12 3-4 11, Bergan 1-5 0-0 2, Masten 4-10 0-0 8, Walton-Blanden 4-10 2-2 11, Longstreet 1-2 1-2 3, Busch 1-3 1-2 3. Totals 23-64 14-21 65.
MSUM (5-3, 1-0): McGhee 7-9 2-3 17, Baumgartner 1-5 3-4 6, Sem 0-0 0-2 0, Irsfeld 4-6 2-2 11, Zimmer 8-9 1-6 17, Stanley-Williams 2-3 2-4 8, Myren 2-3 0-0 4, Kueth 2-5 0-0 4, Bergh 2-2 0-0 4, Beeninga 1-3 0-0 2, Kaiser 0-2 2-4 2. Totals 29-47 12-25 75.
Half: MSUM 32, NSU 24. 3-point goals: NSU 5-31 (Reede 1-9, Moni 3-7, Belka 0-6, Bergan 0-2, Masten 0-2, Walton-Blanden 1-4, Busch 0-1), MSUM 5-11 (McGhee 1-1, Baumgartner 1-2, Irsfeld 1-3, Stanley-Williams 2-2, Kueth 0-1, Beeninga 0-2). Total fouls: NSU 23, MSUM 20. Fouled out: Masten. Technical foul: Dragons bench. Rebounds: NSU 33 (Belka 11), MSUM 41 (Zimmer 12). Assists: NSU 9 (Bergan 3), MSUM 15 (Baumgartner 4). Turnovers: NSU 7, MSUM 14.

Minnesota State University Moorhead's Gatdoar Kueth pulls down a rebound against Northern State's Kobe Busch at Alex Nemzek on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
Minnesota State University Moorhead's Gatdoar Kueth pulls down a rebound against Northern State's Kobe Busch at Alex Nemzek on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. David Samson / The Forum

Minnesota State University Moorhead's Bryce Irsfeld drives on Northern State's Augustin Reede at Alex Nemzek on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
Minnesota State University Moorhead's Bryce Irsfeld drives on Northern State's Augustin Reede at Alex Nemzek on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. David Samson / The Forum