WINONA, Minn. – Minnesota State-Moorhead handed third-ranked Winona State its first home loss of the year with a 90-72 win Friday night at the McCown Gymnasium. The Dragons’ win moves them to 18-5, 14-5 in the NSIC, while the Warriors drop to 22-3, 17-2 in the conference.
The Warriors were playing without Grant Johnson, who was deemed ineligible due to a recruiting violation. As a result, the Warriors dropped out of first place in the NSIC due to nullification, which adjusts the winning percentage based on the team’s statistics.
The Warriors would hold their biggest, and only, lead of the half after an 8-0 run to start the game, until DJ Hamilton, the NSIC player of the week, hit a step-back three on his way to lead all players with 15 first-half points.
Hamilton strung together impressive first-half runs, hitting a pull-up three in transition, followed up by a steal and reverse layup in transition for a 16-13 Dragon lead. With five minutes remaining, after another transition layup for Hamilton, he was able to draw the offensive foul and hit the three on the next possession for a 30-17 lead. Hamilton would lead all scorers on the night with 23 points.
With three minutes remaining, Charlie Chapman found Jordan Riewer with a no-look pass in transition, followed by a Chapman layup on a fast break. With just one minute remaining, off a WSU turnover, Hamilton found Chapman with a cross-court pass for three, and Novak tipped in a last second shot to give the Dragons the 45-23 lead going into the half.
The Dragons had 31 points from the bench, highlighted by Riewer who shot 7-for-8 from the field, and 3-for-3 from three for a career-high 21 points, breaking his previous record of 13. It took until 7:46 remaining in the second half for him to miss his first shot.
The Dragons kept their first-half momentum going into the start of the second opening up a 26-point, scoring 6 points in just under 45 seconds. However, the Warriors would begin to chip-away at the Dragon lead off a Taylor Cameron three pointer. Cameron, who averages 8.3 points per game this season, would lead all Warriors with his career-high 22 points, as the Warriors went on a 17-4 run, trimming the Dragon lead to 55-42.
WSU further lessened the Dragon lead to 65-56 as Clayton Vette backed down under the basket and hit a short turn-around jumper with just under seven minutes remaining, but this would be the closest the Warriors would come. The Dragons picked up their defensive intensity, highlighted by Alex Novak’s 18 rebounds. Chapman hit back-to-back-to back threes with just over four minutes remaining, moving the Dragons up 78-61, and effectively squelching any momentum the Warriors had generated to that point.
MSUM finished the game 32-for-60 from the field, 10-for-24 from three, and 16-for-21 from the free throw line. The Warriors were led in scoring by Cameron (22) and Xavier Humphrey (12).
The victory against No. 3 Winona State was the highest nationally ranked team the Dragons beat since their 97-94 overtime win against No. 2 Western Washington on November 24, 2001.