Men's Basketball Splits Opening Weekend in Duluth

Natalie Dillon
Crookston Times

The University of Minnesota Crookston men’s basketball team split its opening weekend in the American Family Insurance Classic located in Duluth.  

In the contest against University of Nebraska Kearney on Saturday, the Lopers were able to find the open man behind the 3-point arc to defeat the Golden Eagles 75-57. Although their 3-point percentages were roughly the same—35 for the Golden Eagles and 36.4 for the Lopers—Kearney made five more 3-pointers for the advantage.  

Zen Goodridge gave Crookston an early lead with six back-to-back-to-back shots in the paint, including one on a fast break with the assist from Uzo Dibiamaka.  

Kearney tied the game at 11, 13, 15 and 17 before taking the lead and never looking back.  

The Lopers went on a 14-0 run, as Crookston went scoreless for over five minutes. Besides not being able to score on offense, the Golden Eagles committed two offensive fouls in that time. Nathan Powell drove strongly to the basket but was called for a charge, and Marcus Thompson set a moving screen. 

Ethan Channel broke Crookston’s scoring draught with a bucket in transition courtesy of Dibiamaka’s steal, but the Lopers scored six more points before the end of the first half. 

Leonard Dixon looked to turn things around for his team, as he came out in the second half scoring Crookston’s first nine points, including back-to-back 3-pointers. 

After Brian Sitzmann converted a 3-point play with a layup and subsequent free throw, the Golden Eagles applied a full-court press on the Lopers.  

It paid off momentarily, as Crookston went on a 7-point run, highlighted by back-to-back 3-pointers from Channel. This 9-point deficit was the closest the Golden Eagles would get, as they were outscored by the Lopers 8-17 in the last seven minutes of the game. 

Dixon led the team with 19 points and 5 rebounds. Channel followed close behind with 14 points and 4 rebounds. Goodridge and Powell finished with 6 points apiece, while Powell and Dibiamaka had 5 rebounds apiece.  

The previous day, however, the Golden Eagles beat East Central 72-70 on a buzzer-beater from Sitzmann. 

The two teams were evenly matched throughout the game and in the stat book except for bench points. Zach Westphal and Powell combined for 21 points to outscore East Central’s bench 21-2.  

The two Golden Eagles were critical in Crookston’s 7-point run, which gave them their largest lead at 15 with just under three minutes left in the first half. 

Westphal got it going with a layup and Powell added to it with two layups, one of which he was fouled and made the subsequent free throw. 

Crookston went into the locker room at halftime leading 33-23. 

The Tigers slowly chipped away at the Golden Eagles’ lead in the second half before tying it at 48 on a fast break. 

Dibiamaka responded with a step-back 3-pointer, but the Tigers tied it again when their guard Jalen Crutchfield converted a 3-point play with a layup and free throw. Crutchfield then gave East Central the lead with a 3-point shot. 

Dixon appeared to bring his team within two after he went 3-3 on his free throws, but Ellis Lee Jr. did the same after being fouled by Channel from beyond the arc.  

The Golden Eagles regained the lead 64-63 when Westphal made an and-one free throw, but it was short-lived as the Tigers made their free throws in the bonus.  

In another game-changing play, Dibiamaka drove to the basket, taking the lead for the Golden Eagles, but it was initially called a charge. Upon further review, Tiger defender Jakeem Acres’s feet were inside the circle, and the call was reversed. Dibiamaka made his free throw to go up 70-67. 

Crutchfield came in clutch for his team yet again with a game-tying three pointer, but he left 15 seconds left on the clock.  

With three seconds left in the game, Sitzmann put up the game-winning jumper. By the time the ball went through the net, there were only 0.1 seconds remaining on the clock, and the game was called. 

Sitzmann finished the game with 10 points. His teammates Channel and Westphal added 12 apiece, while Dibiamaka led the team with 17 points. Dixon led the Golden Eagles with 13 rebounds, while centers Goodridge and Powell added 7 and 6, respectively. 

The team returns home to play Northern Michigan University on Thursday, November 18 at 6 p.m. The Golden Eagles will also be honoring their staff that day.   

Leonard Dixon puts up a midrange jumper against Mayville.
Uzo Dibiamaka shoots from the line in the exhibition game against Mayville
Ethan Channel goes for the layup in the exhibition against Mayville.