WORTHINGTON -- Overcoming a 13-1 deficit early in the first half, the Minnesota West Community and Technical College men’s basketball team defeated MState-Fergus Falls 57-51 Tuesday night at the Center for Health and Wellness.
Sturdy defense helped the Bluejays outscore the Spartans 31-22 in the second half, and sophomore forward Elijah Williams was a key ingredient.
Williams, a 6-6 post from New Underwood, S.D., scored several key baskets late in the game and finished with 13 points. As unfocused as the Jays were for much of the first half, they held their composure in the second half, and Williams was a dependable force inside.
“I decided to get a little more aggressive down low, and realize I have a height advantage over most of them. That turnaround hook, it’s a very hard shot to block,” Williams said.
His hook shot, and his other varieties of inside moves, had the desired effect when it really counted. With half a minute to go, Minnesota West led MState by just two points, 53-51, but Williams’ catch and layup on an inbounds pass gave West a 55-51 advantage with 23.5 seconds remaining. After the Jays rebounded a long miss by MState, Nick Feit went to the line with 7.1 seconds left with a one-and-one situation. He made both, and that’s how it ended.
Feit, a freshman guard from Luverne, scored 10 points in the game. Teammates Allen Johnson and Keitric Barber Jr. had nine each, and Cornelius Wright had seven.
One important statistic in the game was that Minnesota West out-rebounded the Spartans 50-36, with Barber Jr. getting 16 for himself.
The Bluejays literally raked the boards in the second half. Head coach Taylor Lupton made an adjustment to get more defensive help on the weak side, and often-times there were three or four Jays ready to take control of an MState miss.
In the first half, the Bluejays went scoreless in their first three possessions and failed to get a field goal in their first seven.
“They came out shooting well, and we also weren’t playing any defense in the first eight minutes,” said Lupton.
“First half, we were really kind of sluggish, and in the second half we knew our matchups,” Williams said.
Williams explained that at halftime, West coaches encouraged their players to simplify, to execute, and to “settle down.” They also said to feed the post, which is where Williams and Barber came in.
Lupton said the Bluejays are learning to adjust on the fly. And he likes the fact that, in his words, “We always play hard, even when we’re losing.”
As a coach, he’s learning something else. Pointing to the Jays’ 4-for-22 3-point shooting effort Tuesday, he said, “We still have kind of an identity crisis not being a 3-point shooting team and thinking we are.”
MState-FF 29 51
Minnesota West 26 57
MSTATE-FERGUS FALLS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Edwards 0-4-0-8, Taylor 1-1-1-6, Cresap 0-1-0-2, Pearson 2-1-4-12, Unknown 2-3-3-15, Hinsz 0-2-0-4, Dalton 0-1-0-2, Marsh 0-1-0-2. Totals 5-14-8-51.
MINNESOTA WEST (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Johnson 1-2-2-9, Stoudemire 0-1-1-3, Feit 1-2-3-10, Barber Jr. 0-4-1-9, E.Williams 1-5-0-13, Wright 1-2-0-7, Twyman 0-2-0-4, Bryant 0-1-0-2, Ihnen 0-0-0-0. Totals 4-19-7-57.