The big rematch between Northern State and MSU-Moorhead turned out to be a dud, as the Wolves coasted to their fourth consecutive NSIC tournament title by embarrassing the Dragons 78-57 on Sunday at the Sanford Pentagon. With the win, Northern State clinches an automatic berth in the Division II NCAA tournament. They’ll host the Central Regional at Wachs Arena on March 13-16.
The Wolves improve to 18-1 on the season, and the one loss came to Moorhead, when the North Division rivals split a double header in Aberdeen in the final weekend of the regular season. That, coupled with the Dragons getting a free ticket to the championship game after Wayne State had to forfeit in the semifinals due to COVID-19, made it seem likely that another classic battle was on tap for Sunday’s championship, but the result couldn’t have been further from that.
The Wolves led 45-18 at halftime, at which point they’d shot 60% to Moorhead’s 27. They were 6-of-11 from deep, while the Dragons (10-4) were 0-for-6. MSU had 11 turnovers (and just one assist) in the half, which led directly to 13 Wolves points.
The Dragons offered much more competent basketball in the second half, but it was far too late to matter by then. For the game, NSU shot 49% to MSU’s 33, as the Dragons were 1-of-15 from outside while the Wolves hit 9-of-20.
“That was a very, very good effort, in the first half in particular,” said Wolves coach Saul Phillips. “And it’s tough to hold on against a team that’s good. They’ve got weapons, they put their head down and pressured us and took us out of some things, but I’ll tell you what, if you ever see me complaining about a 20-point win in a championship game, come and slap me upside the head.”
Mason Stark had 24 points to lead the Wolves in the championship, and his 9-for-14 shooting effort resulted in him being named tournament MVP. Parker Fox added 20 points, seven rebounds and five blocked shots. Those two were joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Andrew Kallman and Tommy Chatman and Moorhead’s Gavin Baumgartner.
The Wolves will be among the contenders for the national championship, especially as hosts of the Central Region tournament. The six-team field will be announced next Sunday and the games will run March 13-16.
Duluth women avenge St. Cloud State
In a rematch of last year’s NSIC tournament championship, Minnesota Duluth got payback on the Huskies of St. Cloud State, using a 67-55 win to punch their ticket to the NCAA Division II tournament. It’s the second time in three years the Bulldogs have won the conference tournament and the third year in a row they’ve gone to the NCAA’s.
NSIC MVP Brooke Olson had 15 points and 12 rebounds for UMD, while Ann Simonet had 17 points and Sarah Grow 10. Olson was named the tournament MVP. Joining her on the all-conference team were teammates Simonet and Payton Kahl, along with St. Cloud State seniors Tori Wortz and Nikki Kilboten.