Men's Basketball Strong in Second Half but Falls to Northern Michigan, Michigan Tech

Natalie Dillon
Crookston Times

The University of Minnesota Crookston men’s basketball team struggled in its first home games of the season against two Michigan teams. 

In the contest against Michigan Tech, Crookston trailed 31-54 after the first half but won the second half 41-29. Their second-half efforts weren’t enough, though, as the Huskies won 83-72. 

The story has been the same all season: the Golden Eagles come out slow in the first half, go into the locker room trailing and come out in the second half with renewed energy. 

Head coach Dan Weisse said his team can’t continue this trend if they expect to win many games this season. 

“We have to figure out what type of team we are going to be,” Weisse said. “Are we going to talk the talk or walk the walk. I thought the second half we did what we talked about doing, whereas in the first half, we didn’t back it up with our play. You have to win both halves to win in our league, to win in college basketball.” 

Michigan Tech scored 10 unanswered points to start the first half before Uzo Dibiamaka and Zen Goodridge cut the Huskies lead to six.  

Michigan responded with a 13-point run, their best scoring run of the game, highlighted by three-pointers from Owen White and Brad Simonsen.  

Brian Sitzmann, Zach Westphal and Dylan Hushaw cut into the Huskies lead, but a combination of points from Eric Carl, Adam Hobson, Simonsen and White gave Michigan Tech a 24-point lead, the largest of the first half. 

With four minutes left, UMC went on a 7-point run lead by Ethan Channel. The run started with a three-pointer from Channel and ended with a pair of free throws from number 10. Dibiamaka added two free throws between Channel’s points. 

On their last possession of the half, the Huskies got a three-pointer from Carl to give them a 23-point lead going into the locker room. 

Sam Tiley got the Golden Eagles on the board first in the second half and grabbed the defensive rebound to set up the offense for Channel on the other side of the floor.  

The Huskies increased their lead, however, to 25, the largest of the game, before the Golden Eagles exploded for 17 unanswered points. 

Tiley got it started with two points in the paint, another defensive rebound and 3-point shot on offense. Channel added five points during the run, while Leonard Dixon had six points off of three-pointers. 

Crookston got within single digits of Michigan Tech multiple times in the last 10 minutes of the second half. With just over a minute left, a pair of Hushaw free throws brought the Golden Eagles within seven, but the Huskies scored the last four points of the game to secure the win 83-72. 

Of the starters, Channel and Dibiamaka had the most points with 21 and 10, respectively. Hushaw and Tiley combined for 23 of Crookston’s 31 bench points. Dixon and Tiley each had 5 rebounds, while Channel had 4. Dibiamaka had 6 of the Golden Eagles 9 assists, and Tiley had 3 of 6 total steals.  

In their home opener against Northern Michigan University, Crookston suffered a 69-86 loss. The Golden Eagles were plagued by 22 turnovers, giving the Wildcats 32 points, and their transition defense, which gave up 17 points.  

NMU grabbed an early lead after winning the tip, and center Ben Wolf hustling to the block for an easy layup.  

Weisse was disappointed with how his team showed up in the first possession of the game. 

“Right off the tip, their five-man runs down the floor and gets a layup,” Weisse said. “You know, you think you’re ready to play, and we act like we’re ready to play, but then the first play of the game shows that maybe we aren’t ready to play.” 

Channel tied the game on the opposite end of the court, and Sitzmann gave the Golden Eagles the lead in the next possession. Dibiamaka went 1-2 from the free throw line to give Crookston a three-point lead, but that’s the largest lead the team would have all game. 

Despite trailing, the Golden Eagles were able to remain close until 10 minutes left in the half when the Wildcats went on a 9-point run to go up by 15.  

Mabry came off the bench to help Crookston, grabbing a steal scoring off of a layup and free throw. Sitzmann added to the run with three free throws and two jumpers to bring it within nine. 

In response, Northern Michigan extended their lead to 18 with two Golden Eagle turnovers and two points on a fast break. 

Sitzmann, who totaled 22 points on the night, was able to stall the Wildcat momentum momentarily with two free throws and a 3-point shot, but Northern Michigan still went into the half with a convincing 45-27 lead. 

In the second half, the Wildcats increased their lead to 25, the largest of the game, by scoring nine of the first 11 points in the half. 

The Golden Eagles had to find another way to gain momentum, so they drove hard to the basket, drawing fouls to shoot from the line. The Wildcats committed 7 fouls in the first four and a half minutes of the game, putting Crookston in bonus.  

Knowing the score, Sitzmann said it was crucial for the team to be more aggressive in the second half. 

“We just had to come out aggressive,” Sitzmann said. “We knew we were facing a deficit coming into the second half, so we wanted to get to the lane and try to draw fouls. We just had to be aggressive knowing what the score was.”  

The tactic seemed to be paying off, as both Max Bjorklund and Tre Harvey were subbed out due to foul trouble. Bjorklund had three fouls with 16:50 remaining, and Harvey had 4 fouls with 15:30 remaining. 

This forced Northern Michigan to play a cleaner game, allowing Crookston to bring the game within 13.  Westphal, Goodridge, Dibiamaka and Sitzmann all scored points in the paint in the Golden Eagle’s run.  

Nathaniel Powell and Dibiamaka cut the Wildcat lead to 12 with 4:35 left in the game, but that’s the closest the Golden Eagles would get in the second half.  

Sitzmann led the Golden Eagles with 22 points, going 2-2 beyond the arc and 6-7 at the charity stripe. Dibiamaka added 14 points of his own with 7 rebounds, 6 of which were defensive. Channel and Goodridge had 8 points, while Goodridge led the team on the boards with 8 rebounds.  

Crookston is back in action at home on Tuesday for its first NSIC game against Bemidji State. At halftime, there will be an official court dedication for former men’s basketball head coach Gary Senske.  

Zen Goodridge plays defense
Leonard Dixon works to get the rebound
Brian Sitzmann puts up a fade-away shot
Uzo Dibimaka dribbles between his legs
Ethan Channel puts up points in the paint
Dylan Hushaw shoots from the free throw line