by Turner Blaufuss
After a slow start at home for the playoff opener, the Dragon men’s basketball team left the game at 30-2 after an 89-60 win over the Wayne State Wildcats. The Dragons were honored for their second straight NSIC North Championship, and if anyone asks MSUM coach Chad Walthall, they’re 1-0 going forward.
“I’m just happy for the guys, the department, the university,” Walthall said. “I think it’s awesome for our program. It’s great to have a program where you’re consistently in the hunt.”
Wayne State came in with an unorthodox game plan that involved full court press and plenty of misdirection on offense. The Wildcats kept up with the Dragons trailing 47-38 at the half and shooting 53 percent from the field.
Walthall made adjustments at the half that improved the lock down of the Wildcats. In the second half, MSUM held Wayne State to 22 points and forced 26 turnovers in the game.
“Defensively, we played a lot better in the second half,” Walthall said. “Wayne State offers a lot of challenges defensively with all of their back cutting and screening. They were shooting a high percentage in the first half, but since they were committing so many turnovers we were in control.”
The Dragons ran the court to break the Wildcat press, and it left plenty of opportunities for the MSUM big men streaking down the court. The Dragons threw down seven dunks, and Isaac Sevlie and Urbane Bingham led MSUM with 17 and 16 points, respectively.
“A lot of that was a size advantage, but the other part is breaking the full court press,” Walthall said. “You drive and dish to the guys sitting by the rim. Some of that was being the last guy down, so a lot of credit goes to our guards getting it to them.”
Leading the disruptive Dragon defense were Jordan Riewer and Tyler Vaughan. The two guards each stripped six steals from the Wildcats.
“It was good that we were getting some steals because they put so much pressure on you defensively, they can force you to turn the ball over, but we got them to commit 26 turnovers to our 10,” Walthall said.
The Dragons finished with six men in double figures in the 29-point victory. Walthall explained the luxury of having so many scorers to share the load.
“It’s who we are,” he said. “Jordan usually leads us. The rest of the guys are more than capable to lead us in scoring. Some guys might score a lot some nights, some guys might not, but someone always steps up.”
After Sunday’s 94-87 win over Upper Iowa, the team was 31-2. Further playoff results are posted online at msumdragons.com.