McGhee puts 'foot on the gas' to help lead Dragons men to decisive NSIC home victory
Minnesota State Moorhead played strong defense against Bemidji State on Friday night and built a 20-point lead by halftime
MOORHEAD — Minnesota State Moorhead junior Lorenzo McGhee got on a scoring roll early, and the Dragons clamped down on defense during the first half Friday night at Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse.
That mix proved to be fruitful for MSUM.
McGhee poured in 21 points to help the Dragons roll to a 70-50 victory against Bemidji State in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference men's basketball. The game was played with no fans due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
"It was just believing in what the coaches were preaching. They want me to score the ball," said McGhee, an NCAA Division I transfer from Nicholls State. "Once I saw some shots got through, I just kept going. That's what my team needed me to do. ... I kept my foot on the gas and tried to keep scoring the ball."
The Dragons (3-2, 3-0 North) have won three consecutive games and are in first place in the North Division. MSUM head coach Chad Walthall wasn't on the sideline for Friday's game for "health and safety reasons," Walthall confirmed via text.
"He's not able to be with us (Friday)," MSUM athletic director Doug Peters said. "I'm hoping he's back next week."
Dragons assistant coach Tim Bergstraser was the team's acting head coach against the Beavers. He liked the way the Dragons approached Friday's game without their head coach in attendance.
"Thankfully, we have a veteran group with some solid leaders," Bergstraser said. "We're pretty fortunate to have that and I think they handled it well. That was a very solid team game. Our bench played very well. We had amazing energy from our bench from guys who weren't playing. It looked like they were having fun out there. They showed to respect the game and carry it over."
McGhee ignited the Dragons offense in the opening half. The 6-foot-5 guard scored 16 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the floor in the first 20 minutes to help the Dragons build a 42-22 halftime lead.
"When he doesn't think, he's pretty dang good," Bergstraser said of McGhee. "He's pretty solid 1-on-1 and he's starting to get comfortable in our offense so he's not thinking as much. He's picking his spots when to shoot and when to attack."
MSUM scored 17 consecutive points during one stretch in the first half to push their lead to 22 points. Senior forward Joe Sevlie capped that run with a basket in the middle of the lane to give the Dragons a 36-14 edge with 3 minutes, 47 seconds remaining until halftime.
The Dragons, who led by as many as 23 points before halftime, shot 57% (16 of 28) from the floor in the first half. In contrast, Bemidji State shot 30% (7 of 23) from the floor during that span.
"Our defensive side of the ball and our pressure helped us out," Bergstraser said. "That definitely got us rolling."
The Dragons forced 19 BSU turnovers. They scored 21 points off those miscues.
"We had to pick our intensity defensively," McGhee said. "That's what helped our offense get going."
The Dragons, who trailed 6-0 to start the game, led by as many as 31 points in the second half. MSUM took a 59-28 lead after a Bryce Irsfeld basket with 10:30 to play in the second half. Irsfeld finished with 11 points on 5-for-9 shooting from the floor. MSUM junior Gavin Baumgartner added 10 points.
The Dragons also got 19 points off their bench. Freshman guard Gabe Myren led that reserve effort with eight points on 3-for-3 shooting for the field in nine minutes.
"I loved the defense tonight and the other thing I liked was our bench play," McGhee said. "They came in with the same intensity and picked up the intensity even more than the starters. We were all together as a unit tonight."
McGhee also likes the way the Dragons are trending after losing their first two teams this season.
"I feel we're heading in the direction we need to be headed," McGhee said. "Of course, we've still got some things we need to work on."
BSU (1-4, 0-3 North): Landwehr 6-7 2-4 14, Thompson 6-12 9-12 21, Chase 0-6 2-2 2, Kone 1-3 2-3 5, Wagner 0-7 0-0 0, Albrecht 0-1 0-0 0, Kaufmanis 0-3 0-0 0, Behrendt 0-1 2-2 2, Senske 2-4 0-0 6. Totals 15-44 17-23 50.
MSUM (3-2, 3-0): McGhee 7-14 3-6 4-4 21, Baumgartner 4-12 0-0 10, Irsfeld 5-9 0-0 11, Zimmer 4-8 1-4 9, Kueth 0-4 0-0 0, Myren 3-3 2-3 8, Sem 0-1 0-0 0, Sevlie 2-7 1-1 5, Bergh 0-0 1-2 1, Beeninga 2-4 0-0 5. Totals 27-62 9-14 70.
Half: MSUM 42, BSU 22. 3-point goals: BSU 3-16 (Thompson 0-1, Chase 0-2, Kone 1-2, Wagner 0-4, Kaufmanis 0-2, Behrendt 0-1, Senske 2-4), MSUM 7-21 (McGhee 3-6, Baumgartner 2-5, Irsfeld 1-4, Zimmer 0-1, Kueth 0-2, Sevlie 0-1, Benninga 1-2). Total fouls: BSU 15, MSUM 19. Rebounds: BSU 35 (Kone 13), MSUM 36 (Zimmer 9). Assists: BSU 6 (Kone 3), MSUM 10 (four players with 2). Turnovers: BSU 19 (Kone 4, Wagner 4), MSUM 9 (three players with 2).