Men's Basketball Adjusts Without Channel

Natalie Dillon
Crookston Times

The University of Minnesota men’s basketball team challenged two Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) teams this weekend but came up short, falling to Upper Iowa 63-74 and Winona State 65-70. 

The Golden Eagles were without starter Ethan Channel who sprained his ankle in practice on Thursday. Channel, who sported a boot in the two games, is out two to eight weeks. 

Senior Zach Westphal got the starts in place of Channel scoring 19 points in the two games, making an immediate impact.  

Head coach Dan Weisse said Westphal deserved the starting spot for his effort, the level of which Weisse wishes all his players had.  

“That’s the thing about Zach Westphal, he gives up some size in some areas, but he has a big heart, and he plays hard,” Weisse said. “What he gives up in ability, he makes up for in his tenacity and toughness. I love that about Zach. He’s earned that spot.” 

In the contest against Winona State, the Golden Eagles pushed the Warriors to their limit, outscoring them 35-26 in the second half. Crookston’s efforts weren’t enough, though, to dig them out of their first-half deficit. 

Nathaniel Powell got the Golden Eagles on the board first, and they led as late as 13:33 left in the first. Three-pointers gave the Warriors the lead, which they extended to 31-18 with a 9-0 run.  

After getting it within single digits with free throws from Westphal, a three from Ron Kirk and jumper from Leonard Dixon, the Warriors went on another 9-point run to close out the first half. 

The Golden Eagles started the second half stronger, scoring seven of the first nine points. They also held Winona scoreless for five minutes, in which they were able to cut the Warriors lead to just six.  

Winona built it back up to 12 with three unanswered layups. For the next four minutes the two teams exchanged points, as the Warriors’ lead hovered around 10.  

With four minutes left, Westphal sparked a 6-point run, all points coming from free throws. Westphal, Brian Sitzmann and Jerome Mabry all went 2-2 from the charity stripe. With 16 seconds left, Sitzmann drained a three to make it a 64-66 game in favor of Winona.  

In the final seconds, the Warriors converted their free throws to prevail 70-65. 

Dixon, Powell and Westphal all scored in double-figures. Dixon scored 16 points with a team leading 8 rebounds, Powell had 12 with 6 rebounds and Westphal had 10 with 6 rebounds. Uzo Dibiamaka also grabbed 6 rebounds, all of them defensive. Westphal and Sitzmann were perfect from the free throw line, going 6-6 and 4-4, respectively.  

The difference maker in the game was turnovers, as the Golden Eagles had 15 compared to the Warriors’ 6. Winona was able to score 18 points on Crookston’s turnovers. 

Against the No. 19 Upper Iowa Peacocks, Crookston held tough but ultimately fell 63-74. 

In the first half, there were six lead changes with three ties.  

Despite some early back-and-forth action, the Peacocks took an early 11-5 lead with a transition bucket from Lucas Duax. The Golden Eagles responded with a 12-2 run to take a four-point lead. In that time Sitzman sank a three, Powell had four points in the paint and Dixon added five with a three and a jumper. 

Crookston then went on a four-minute scoring draught where the Peacocks were able to tie the game up. Dibiamaka and Powell padded the lead back to four, but the Golden Eagles struggled shooting yet again, this time for seven minutes. In that time, Upper Iowa went on a 14-point run for a 33-25 lead at half. 

In the second half, the two teams battled back and forth, as the Peacocks maintained at least a four-point lead. It wasn’t until about halfway through the second that Upper Iowa extended its lead to 14 with a bucket in the paint from Max Duax.  

Down the stretch, Kirk did everything he could to get his team back in the game. He drove to the basket for two points and converted on his free throws when fouled in transition. 

“As a freshman, he’s really figuring it out,” Weisse said. “He’s one of the tougher kids, very athletic. He’ll have a great future if he keeps the right mindset.” 

The effort fell short, as the Golden Eagles fell 63-74. 

Sitzmann and Dixon were leading scorers with 16 and 13 points, respectively. Dixon also led with Westphal in rebounds, as both players at 8.  

After the weekend, Crookston drops to 4-12 overall and 1-9 in conference. They are on the road Friday and Saturday with two more conference games against Concordia and Mankato. Both teams are in the lower half of the South division, while Concordia is without a conference win. 

Zach Westphal got the start for an injured Ethan Channel.
Ron Kirk Jr. makes a hustle play against Upper Iowa.
Nathaniel Powell had 20 points and 10 rebounds on the weekend.
Brian Sitzmann drives toward the basket against Winona State on Saturday.
Leonard Dixon led all scorers with 29 points in the two games.