The University of Minnesota Crookston (UMC) Men’s Basketball team won its second straight behind a strong defensive performance, holding Winona State to just 24 first-half points, in an 80-66 win over the Warriors in an NSIC game played at Lysaker Gymnasium.
The Golden Eagles got out to a quick start with defensive stops and scores in transition. Josh Collins (Sr., Minneapolis) opened the scoring with a lay-up through contact sending Collins to the free-throw line to complete the three-point play. Brian Sitzmann (R-Fr., Savage), starting in place of the injured Ben Juhl (Soph., Clive, IA) scored a lay-up pushing Minnesota Crookston’s lead to 5-0. Chase Knickerbocker (Sr., Annandale) connected on a three-pointer, the first of his career-high 30 points, to close out the Golden Eagles’ 8-0 run to start the game. Following Winona State’s first points of the night, Brian Sitzmann connected on a mid-range jump shot before Harrison Cleary (Jr., Oak Creek, WI) made a three-pointer pushing UMC’s lead to 13-2. Minnesota Crookston’s hot shooting from deep continued later in the half. Leading 16-9, Chase Knickerbocker made two-straight three-pointers before adding two free-throws on to UMC’s 24-9 lead. Another Knickerbocker three-pointer followed by three free-throws closed out a four-minute span where Knickerbocker scored all of the Golden Eagles’ fourteen points pushing the hosts’ lead to 30-16. Darin Viken (Sr., Fosston) concluded Minnesota Crookston’s net-torching first half with one final three-pointer giving UMC a 42-24 lead. “(Getting off to a quick start) was huge, said UMC head coach Dan Weisse. We were defending well. The offense was clicking, we got a little lead early and when the ball goes in the hole I feel like our defense plays better. What hurt us in some of those losses earlier this year, was when the ball wasn’t going in the hole, our defense was lacking as well. Early in that first half, both were clicking and if we can play like that every night, I’ll be a happy guy.”
Winona State continued to fight in the second half making things interesting in the closing minutes. A Josh Collins dunk with 17:09 to play gave UMC a 49-31 lead before a Gable Smith (R-Sr., Lodi, WI) free-throw made it 50-31. After the Warriors pulled with 54-40, Chase Knickerbocker connected on a jump shot followed by a Malcolm Cohen (R-Jr., Detroit, MI) three-pointer giving the Golden Eagles a 59-40 lead. Winona State pulled within twelve following a 7-0 run and added another 6-0 run to cut the deficit down to 67-60 with 2:59 to play. Chase Knickerbocker answered with a lay-up through traffic in the paint pushing the Golden Eagles ahead 69-60. Harrison Cleary knocked down two free-throws reestablishing an eleven point lead before the Warriors scored four-straight points pulling back within 71-64 with 1:42 to play. Josh Collins split a pair of free throws with 1:08 to play before the Warriors made two free-throws pulling within 72-66 with 1:02 remaining. Minnesota Crookston’s defense held Winona State scoreless the rest of the night and made their free-throws down the stretch to close out the crucial 80-66 win. “This Winona team is tough,” summarized Weisse. “They play pretty good defense and play a pack-line, they make you earn everything, but our guys did a great job moving the ball. The energy was there. Our guys bought in and made it tough for them at the defensive end and we just did enough to hold on at the end of the game.”
Minnesota Crookston improves to 12-8 overall and 5-6 in the NSIC. The Golden Eagles return to the court on Saturday when UMC hosts Upper Iowa at 5:30 p.m. on KROX. Winona State falls to 6-11 overall and 3-8 in conference play.
|Harrison Cleary||17||2||4 assists|
|Brian Sitzmann||7||3||3 assists|
|Gable Smith||5||8||4 blocks|
|For Winona State||Points|