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Northern State edges MSU Moorhead in rough-and-tumble battle for first

The NSIC rivals met with the conference's top spot on the line on Tuesday at Nemzek Fieldhouse.

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Minnesota State Moorhead's Jacob Beeninga goes up for two against Northern State during their men's basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, at Moorhead.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum
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MOORHEAD — One-point was the difference when the dust settled Tuesday night as Northern State defeated Minnesota State Moorhead 72-71 in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference matchup between North Divison co-leaders.

Northern State’s Sam Masten drove for the go-ahead basket with 14 seconds left and the Wolves pulled the win at Nemzek Fieldhouse.

On their ensuing possession, the Dragons were unable to make much happen on their first try down the court as the Wolves knocked the ball loose, leading to a pile of bodies hitting the floor. With two seconds left, MSUM was awarded possession and Gabe Myren inbounded the ball to Lorenzo McGhee, who had his attempt at a shot broken up.

With the win, Northern improves to 13-3 overall and 9-1 in the NSIC while MSUM fell to 13-3 and 8-2 in the NSIC.

West Fargo Sheyenne graduate Jacksen Moni led the Wolves with 26 points. Moni’s fellow Sheyenne alum, Michale Nhial, added 10 points. Josh Dilling scored 15 points and Masten scored 14.

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Minnesota State Moorhead's Jaden Stanley-Williams and Northern State’s Jacksen Moni reach for a last-second cross-court pass during their men's basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, at Moorhead.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum

Moni said the game had been circled on his and Nhial's calendars.

“We were both looking forward to this game,” Moni said. “It’s back in our hometown and we had a couple buddies coming out to the game so we knew we had to perform. They’re a great team and we knew we had to come out and play our best.”

MSUM led the game for more than half the game and the teams were essentially shot for shot until 7:22 remained in the first half.

However, after MSUM's Jaden Stanley-Williams his a 3-pointer, a flagrant foul was called on Northern’s Kobe Busch for a foul on Gavin Baumgartner.

Following the flagrant call, tensions ramped up between the teams, with some words being exchanged between players and plenty of scrappiness to go around.

MSUM coach Tim Bergstraser said he expected it in a game of this magniture.

“That’s competition and the history of MSUM and Northern,” Bergstraser said. “We knew it was going to be a chippy, dogfight kind of game and that’s the games our guys like to be a part of and that’s how they’re built, too.

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Minnesota State Moorhead's Dane Zimmer goes up for two against Northern State during their men's basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, at Moorhead.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum

Bergstraser added that the major difference down the stretch was poor MSUM shooting and an inability to put the brakes on the Wolves.

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“I think we’ve done a great job of managing games when teams try to get you out of what you do in the last five or six minutes,” he said. “Maybe we didn’t do a spectacular job on that tonight but I don’t think we did terrible. We just needed better looks and we couldn't stop them either. We could say it’s an offensive thing but if we get stops and rebound, we don’t have to worry about our offense.”

Stanley-Williams (16), McGhee (15), Baumgartner (13) and Jacob Beeninga (12) combined for 56 of the Dragons’ 71 points.

While the win over MSUM breaks the tie for the North lead, Northern State coach Saul Phillips said he isn’t too focused on that at this point of the season, though he is happy to have a tiebreaker over MSUM should it be needed.

“It’s a little early for us to be standings watching,” Phillips said. “I’ll do it tonight just because it’ll feel good to me. But, we have to go to Sioux Falls and Southwest Minnesota State on Friday and Saturday and all the work we’ve done here is out the window with the exception of, we still have the tiebreak over Moorhead. We’re essentially a game and a half over Moorhead.”

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Minnesota State Moorhead's Gabe Myren drives against Northern State during their men's basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, at Moorhead.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum

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