BY TURNER BLAUFUSS
MSUM couldn’t get its offense rolling and was shut down by the Winona State Warriors in the semifinal round of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference/Sanford Tournament game. The Dragons lost 70-53. Their prior season low for points in a game was 67.
“Winona was outstanding tonight,” MSUM coach Chad Walthall said. “That was one of the best defensive showings I’ve seen in the conference.”
Moorhead struggled early on and trailed by 12 at the half. The Dragons couldn’t answer any of the Warriors’ runs led by Mark Blacklock. The Dragons hoped they could get back on track after knocking down three straight three pointers before the halftime, which put them in familiar territory. The last time the two teams met was with a 12-point Winona lead at the half, and MSUM came back to win.
“They were very physical, and it took us a whole half for us to get to match their physicalness,” Walthall said. “(Blacklock) is an outstanding player. He was a matchup problem for us all night because he can do so much.”
The Dragon offense continued to falter in the second half as the stout Warrior defense put the clamps down, limiting the field goal percentage to a season-low of 33 percent.
“It was just one of those days where you couldn’t make it in the ocean,” Walthall said. “Credit Winona. They had a great defensive ball game.”
A large amount of MSUM’s mistakes were self-inflicted, with numerous possessions ending with turnovers and poor shot selection. The Warriors made use of the Dragons’ mistakes and eventually put the game out of reach.
Tyler Vaughan and Tarell Clark were the only Dragons in double figures, with 13 and 10 respectively.
MSUM was patiently waiting but found out Sunday they did not receive an NCAA tournament bid, even though NSIC rivals Winona State University and Minnesota State University – Mankato made the cut after falling to the Dragons in regular season play. The Dragons finished the season with a 21-8 record.