The Golden Eagles are off to their best start in program history with a 9-6 (3-4 NSIC) mark.
The University of Minnesota Crookston men’s basketball team held preseason NSIC No. 1 St. Cloud State University to a season-low offensively as they earned a 76-57 rout Fri., Jan. 4. Minnesota Crookston’s defense limited the Huskies to just 35.6 percent from the field. In addition, NSIC North Preseason Player of the Year Gage Davis was held scoreless in the first half and was limited to 10 points on the night, 11.8 points under his season average.
The Golden Eagles are off to their best start in program history with a 9-6 (3-4 NSIC) mark. Minnesota Crookston is just one win from tying their school-record 10 wins set during the 2017-18 season. The Golden Eagles did not reach the nine win mark last season until a Feb. 2 win over Augustana University. St. Cloud State falls to 9-4 (4-3 NSIC North). The Golden Eagles are tied with University of Mary for fifth in the NSIC North after Friday night’s victory.
Minnesota Crookston used a team effort to take down the Huskies. The Golden Eagles had 14 turnovers to just six turnovers on the day as ball movement was a key on the evening. Josh Collins and Malcolm Cohen were crucial both offensive and defensively. Cohen notched 14 points, while Collins finished with 11 points. Gable Smith (R-Sr., F/C, Lodi, Wis.) was also crucial defensively. He finished with four points, nine rebounds, and two blocks. Chase Johnson (R-So., F/C, La Crosse, Wis.) added eight points and five rebounds with two blocks, while Ben Juhl (So., G, Clive, Iowa) also notched eight points. Javier Nicolau (Jr., F/C, Castellon, Spain) came off the bench with five rebounds, and three assists.
Harrison Cleary (Jr., G, Oak Creek, Wis.) finished with 28 points on 10-of-20 from the field, 4-of-5 from beyond the arc, and 4-of-5 from the foul line. Cleary moved past Concordia University- St. Paul great Craig Heiman for 14th all-time on the NSIC scoring charts as he now as 1,208 points in conference play. Cleary needs three points to surpass Clayton Vette of Winona State University for 13th, and 40 points to move past Ryan Rasmussen of University of Minnesota Duluth for 12th all-time. Cleary has 1,674 career points as a Golden Eagle. He needs 244 points to surpass Joe Hasz for the long-standing school-record at Minnesota Crookston for points.
The Golden Eagles used a consistent rotation during most of the game as they utilized their depth. Minnesota Crookston utilized an approach similar to a hockey line change as they usually subbed in four new players following every media timeout. The game plan worked well as the Golden Eagles remained fresh on the offensive and defensive ends throughout the game.
Minnesota Crookston shot 30-of-67 for the field for 44.8 percent. The Golden Eagles were 11-of-22 from beyond the arc for 50.0 percent. Cohen and Cleary each had four three-pointers.
The Golden Eagles and Huskies were even on the boards 40-40 for the evening.
St. Cloud State was guided by 13 points from Brindley Theisen. Sean Smith added 12 points and nine boards. Davis was just 4-of-13 from the field, but finished with a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds. Diamond Onwuka added nine points and five rebounds.
The Huskies were just 21-of-59 from the field for 35.6 percent. St. Cloud State shot 6-of-18 from behind the three-point line for 33.3 percent. The Huskies finished 9-of-11 for 81.8 percent from the stripe. St. Cloud State was forced into 13 turnovers and had just nine assists for the game.
Minnesota Crookston was fast out of the gate as they jumped out to a 7-2 advantage on a Cleary jumper. St. Cloud State pulled within 7-5 on an Onwuka trey. The Golden Eagles utilized a 16-4 run to widen the gap to 23-9 on a Juhl basket. The Huskies utilized an old-fashioned three-point play from Theisen and a triple from Jace Kitchen to pull within 23-15 with 8:23 remaining in the first half.
Minnesota Crookston was able to stave off St. Cloud State with a thunderous dunk from Collins to push the advantage out to 28-18. The Huskies were able to get the deficit back down to single digits with a bucket from Onwuka with 5:48 left in the stanza. Minnesota Crookston would not let their foes get closer as they finished the half on a 15-4 run propelled by a Cohen buzzer beater as the horn sounded and the teams went into the locker room for the break. The Golden Eagles led at the intermission 45-26.
Minnesota Crookston did not let off the gas pedal as another beautiful dunk from Collins, and a Cleary hoop put the Golden Eagles ahead 49-28 early in the second stanza. The Golden Eagles continued to control play as the half went along as they pushed their lead out to 65-41 on a Cohen jumper with 11:34 remaining in the game. The Huskies would cut the deficit to under 20 on a pair of Oliver Ehrnvall free throws, but they would fall short 76-57 as the Golden Eagles prevailed in a phenomenal effort on both ends of the court.
Minnesota Crookston will look to extend their winning streak to three games as they host University of Minnesota Duluth Sat., Jan. 5 at 5:30 p.m. at Lysaker Gymnasium in Crookston, Minn.