There was no Barton College magic for the Minnesota State University Moorhead men's basketball team Friday night. Defending player of the year John Smith finished with 25 points and 17 rebounds to lead No. 4-ranked Winona State to a 64-59 Norther...
There was no Barton College magic for the Minnesota State University Moorhead men's basketball team Friday night.
Defending player of the year John Smith finished with 25 points and 17 rebounds to lead No. 4-ranked Winona State to a
64-59 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference victory before 1,301 fans at Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse.
"They were a great team," said MSUM junior Justyn Burgess of the Warriors, who were stunned by Barton in last year's national championship game. "We tried to compete with one of the best teams in the nation, we just came up short."
Despite giving up several inches at every position, the Dragons held their own in the first half.
In fact, MSUM looked sharp as the Warriors struggled to open up its deadly perimeter game.
Winona State, which won the Division II national title in 2006, was 0 of 13 from beyond the arc in the first half.
"Those 3-pointers are huge," Smith said. "Especially when you are not hitting them. My hat's off to (the Dragons)."
Playing in the middle of the Dragons' zone defense, the 6-foot-5 Burgess did his best to match up with the 6-8 Smith.
Smith struggled from the floor, but dominated with his ability to outleap MSUM defenders and gather many of his missed shots. Smith finished with 12 offensive rebounds.
MSUM capitalized on Winona's slow start by building a 32-22 halftime advantage in front of a boisterous home crowd.
It didn't take long, however, for the Warriors to steal the momentum.
The Warriors, who extended their conference winning streak to 36 games, needed only seven-and-a-half minutes to erase a 15-point Dragons lead in the second half.
Ben Fischer put Winona State ahead 41-39 with 10:36 remaining.
"That's kind of what we've done in the past," Smith said. "We don't try to do it too quickly. That's something that can be a team's downfall. We take it one play at a time."
Quincy Henderson drilled a 3-pointer to put Winona State ahead 59-55 with 1:39 on the clock.
Fans were filing out of Nemzek as Smith came up with a steal on MSUM's final possession with four seconds left.
"It wasn't too much different than what you'd expect," Dragons coach Stu Engen said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.
Hotzler's small college blog can be found at www.areavoices.com Missed opportunity Heath Hotzler 20080112