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Dragons hold off No. 18-ranked Northern State to earn season sweep

MOORHEAD-No. 18-ranked Northern State rallied for 25 points in the fourth quarter, but Minnesota State Moorhead got the stop it needed in the closing seconds.Dragons junior Cassidy Thorson's steal with 1.6 seconds remaining helped her team hold o...

Minnesota State Moorhead's Cassidy Thorson battles for a loose ball against Northern State's Brynn Flakus Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016, at Alex Nemzek.David Samson / The Forum
Minnesota State Moorhead's Cassidy Thorson battles for a loose ball against Northern State's Brynn Flakus Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016, at Alex Nemzek.David Samson / The Forum

MOORHEAD-No. 18-ranked Northern State rallied for 25 points in the fourth quarter, but Minnesota State Moorhead got the stop it needed in the closing seconds.

Dragons junior Cassidy Thorson's steal with 1.6 seconds remaining helped her team hold off the Wolves for a 69-66 victory Saturday, Dec. 17, in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference women's basketball at Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse.

"Cass just plays so hard," MSUM head coach Karla Nelson said. "It's kind of poetic justice that she gets a big steal for us."

The Dragons (9-1, 6-0 NSIC) have won nine consecutive games. They next host Minnesota State-Mankato on Dec. 30. MSUM swept the season series against the Wolves, also earning a 51-44 win on Nov. 26 in Aberdeen, S.D.

"I'm really proud of this group to go into Christmas break 9-1," Nelson said. "I don't think anyone, including ourselves, thought we'd do that."

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The Dragons built a 57-43 lead after sophomore guard Jacky Volkert sank a 3-pointer with 9 minutes, 23 seconds to play in the fourth quarter. The Wolves countered by scoring 16 of the next 20 points to get back into the game. Northern State guard Brianna Kusler capped the rally by sinking a jumper in the middle of the the lane to cut the Dragons lead to 61-59 lead with 3:57 remaining.

"They're a really good team," said Volkert, who scored a team-high 16 points. "They were a little cold at the beginning."

The Wolves sliced the Dragons lead to 67-66 after freshman guard Jessi Marti sank a 3-pointer with 1:20 remaining. Northern State got the ball back after drawing a charging call on Volkert with 12 seconds remaining.

Moments later, Thorson came up with her steal after the Wolves got the ball to junior center Miranda Ristau in the middle of the paint.

"Cassidy has been really clutch in finishing games and really working hard and getting steals," Volkert said.

Thorson finished with a team-high eight rebounds and three steals to go along with her seven points. Volkert had four rebounds, five assists and two steals to go along with her team-high point total.

Volkert sank two free throws with 0.9 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter for the final margin.

"Jacky is just such a good player," Nelson said.

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The Dragons scored 10 consecutive points in the second quarter to push their lead to 17 points. Freshman forward Morgan Ham scored the first five points in that surge. Volkert capped the rally with a 12-foot, pull-up jumper that gave the Dragons a 37-20 lead with 2:31 to play in the second quarter.

Ham scored 10 points in the first two quarters on 4-for-4 shooting from the floor, helping the Dragons take a 41-26 lead into halftime. MSUM shot 59 percent (17 of 29) from the field in the opening half.

"In the short term, it's big," Nelson said of getting two wins against Northern State. "I guess we'll only know how big it is an the end of the season."

NSU 10 26 41 66

MSUM 18 41 52 69

NORTHERN STATE (8-2, 4-2 NSIC): Waytashek 1-4 0-0 2, Laimer 0-6 0-0 0, Crosswait 2-4 0-0 4, Conrad 7-11 4-4 18, Ristau 9-18 4-5 22, Flakus 0-0 0-0 0, Kusler 7-10 0-0 15, Marti 1-1 0-0 3, Fredrick 1-2 0-0 2, Anderson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-56 8-9 66.

MSUM (9-1, 6-0): Thorson 3-10 1-2 7, Volkert 5-10 5-5 16, Van Wyhe 2-7 0-0 6, Ham 6-9 0-0 14, Sannes 5-14 3-3 13, Erickson 1-3 0-0 3, Selensky 0-0 0-0 0, Hart 1-1 0-0 2, Galegher 1-1 0-0 2, Hintz 3-5 0-0 6. Totals 27-60 9-10 69.

3-point goals: NSU 2-11 (Waytashek 0-1, Laimer 0-4, Crosswait 0-2, Conrad 0-1, Kusler 1-2, Marti 1-1), MSUM 6-21 (Thorson 0-4, Volkert 1-2, Van Wyhe 2-5, Ham 2-4, Sannes 0-2, Erickson 1-3, Hintz 0-1). Total fouls: NSU 14, MSUM 14. Rebounds: NSU 33 (Ristau 9), MSUM 28 (Thorson 8). Assists: NSU 14 (Conrad 3), MSUM 11 (Volkert 5). Steals: NSU 3 (three players with 1), NSU 8 (Thorson 3). Turnovers: NSU 13, MSUM 8.

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Minnesota State Moorhead's Cassidy Thorson battles for a loose ball against Northern State's Brynn Flakus Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016, at Alex Nemzek.David Samson / The Forum
Minnesota State Moorhead's Megan Hintz shoots between Northern State defenders Miranda Ristau (51) and Brianna Kusler Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016, at Alex Nemzek.David Samson / The Forum

Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.
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