The UMD men’s basketball team split their Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference road trip to put them at 10-10 on the season with a 7-7 conference record. The Bulldogs’ road trip was a microcosm of their play this season in the eyes of the players: promising, yet inconsistent. On Friday night, the Bulldogs opened with a victory again Minot State, winning 60-56. The victory was a low-scoring affair with high-scoring implications. Reece Zoelle, a Bulldog senior, reached his 1,000th point in the victory while scoring 15 points on five of nine shooting. After the game Zoelle was happy and humbled by the accomplishment.
“I have been very fortunate to play for four years at such a great university,” Zoelle said. “Reaching 1,000 career points is quite the honor and is definitely something I am proud of. A special thanks to Coach Holquist for recruiting me to come play for the Bulldogs and believing in me.” Senior Brett Ervin also contributed 14 points and 12 rebounds in the victory.
“I honestly had no idea Reece had scored his 1,000th point until Coach Bowen said something about it in the locker room after the game,” Ervin said. “After Bowen had said something, the whole team jumped on Reece with excitement. As a roommate and a good friend of Reece's, it's really cool to see someone accomplish something like that.”
As a team they shot 38.9 percent from the field and 20 percent from beyond the arc on six team assists. Despite this, it was their execution at the end of the game that sealed the victory. The Bulldogs took the lead with less than five minutes left in the game and continued on an 8-1 run to end the game. The Bulldogs’ ability to execute late in games carried into their matchup against University of Mary, but it wasn’t enough to substantiate a victory.
On Saturday night the Bulldogs lost to the University of Mary 71-75. The Bulldogs opened up shooting just 34 percent from the floor and went 1-8 from beyond the arc. Their first half was marred with turnovers and sloppy play that ended up creating their demise.
This was despite a second half that featured an improved 58 percent shooting from the floor and two for six from beyond the arc. This coincided with more offensive aggression, leading to four more free throws and a style of play that pandered to one of their stars, Pierre Newton, who finished with 18 points on 50 percent shooting and nine rebounds.
“The second half of the U-Mary game we played with great pace and that works into my hands well because I am a player that likes to play fast and with speed,” Newton said. “Specifically we found a couple things on the offensive end in the second half of the U-Mary game that works well with our personnel. I think we just have to play a complete game and try to enforce our imprint of playing faster every game.”
Another problem the Bulldogs face is creating an environment in games that allows everyone to be involved. Against the University of Mary, the Bulldogs didn’t have a single point from a bench player despite contributing 41 minutes of court time. Newton reflected on these stats after the game.
“All year we have struggled to constantly have bench scoring,” Newton said. “I think players just have to be ready to step up when the lights are on because they are capable and great players.”
The Bulldogs will finish their road trip next Friday against Sioux Falls and then on Saturday against Southwest Minnesota State, where they will try and implement the lessons they learned from this weekend on their new opponents. Ervin, leading scorer of the Bulldogs, is approaching their upcoming games with a modicum of insight and optimism from Saturday.
“It's very hard to win on the road in the NSIC and we really gave away a great opportunity on Saturday night,” Ervin said. “Our team really plays well for about 30-35 minutes of the game, but we yet have a game where we can put a full 40 minutes together of great basketball. That is something we will focus on for the remainder of the season.”
BY NICOLE BRODZIK Sports Editor