A new era of basketball is officially underway for first-year head coach Matt Bowen and it didn’t go the way he wanted. The University of Minnesota Duluth men’s basketball team lost its season home opener, 67-61, to the University of Wisconsin-Parkside on Sunday afternoon. It was the program’s first home opener loss since 2007 and the first time they lost a season opener dating back to the 2003-04 season.
“I was pretty disappointed,” said Bowen. “We didn’t play very well on either end of the floor. We left a lot of opportunities out there.”
UMD (0-1) got off to a rough start and couldn’t find a rhythm in the first half. The Rangers’ (1-0) strangling defense held the offense in check, holding the Bulldogs to 25 first-half points on 8-of-27 shooting. The Bulldogs trailed by as many as 10 in the final minutes of the first half but cut the lead to seven at the break.
Jake Hottenstine was the ringleader for the Bulldogs, scoring a game-high 22 points and adding five boards and four steals. Hottenstine would lead the charge for the Bulldogs in the second half. Down by seven with 8:31 left to play, Hottenstine scored five points to draw the Dogs within one. UMD would capture their first lead of the game when sophomore forward Ben Bucholz gave UMD a 53-52 lead with his backdoor layup with 4:23 to go.
That slight one-point advantage didn’t last very long.
Twenty-two seconds later, UW-Parkside’s Jeremy Saffold put the Rangers back in front on the next possession. Then, Saffold would ice the game two minutes later with a step back jumper from the top of the key with a man in his face. Saffold also finished with a game-high 22 points.
“Give credit to Parkside, they made some shots at some difficult times which took the air out of every run we had,” said Bowen. “In the end, we had only six assists. We didn’t move the ball, missed a lot of open cutters and missed about 10 point-blank layups.”
UMD tried to make another rally in the final minutes but UW-Parkside wouldn’t give up the lead a second time. The victory for the Rangers snapped a 14-game losing streak dating back to last season.
“I’m proud of how hard we fought today, especially on a poor shooting day,” Hottenstine said. “We fought and we got back into it and if we just could have made a few stops on defense, we could have a chance at the end of the game.”
The Bulldogs will have the chance to even their record and give Bowen his first Bulldog victory in a non-conference matchup against Michigan Tech University on Saturday. Tipoff is at 6 p.m. after the conclusion of the women’s home opener.
BY EVAN SMEGAL firstname.lastname@example.org