Brett Ervin helps Bulldogs plunge into the postseason Playing to the largest crowd of the year, the Bulldogs pulled off two victories this weekend – beating the University of Mary 63-60 and Minot State in overtime 83-80. The victories allowed the Bulldogs to finish with a 15-13 regular season record and a 12-10 record in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference heading into the playoffs.
Senior center Brett Ervin was fundamental to the Bulldogs’ success. Over the weekend, Ervin made about a third of the Bulldogs’ total points, and he did so efficiently. He made nearly half of his shots while contributing 58 percent shooting from three. In the first game, the University of Mary’s best tactic was to swarm him.
“They were putting three or four guys on him, and sometimes just he couldn’t get an angle, then he would kick it back out and we kept missing shots,” Head Coach Matt Bowen said. “Fortunately some key baskets were made and we ended up with the victory. It was an ugly game and I think they wanted it that way.”
The Bulldogs received help from Pierre Newton, who snagged 12 rebounds and added 11 points, while Brendon Pineda matched him with 11 points of his own. As a team, they helped hold University of Mary’s big man Jaycob Velasco to just 10 points on four for 13 shooting.
On Saturday night the Bulldogs tipped off against Minot State in their last regular season game of the year, and the last regular season game for seniors Ervin, Kristofer Jackson and Reece Zoelle. Ervin, a staple of the Bulldog offense for the past couple of years, couldn’t help but get sentimental about his years here.
“I have told the guys multiple times this year that this goes by super fast,” Ervin said. “I remember coming in my freshman year like it was yesterday. Take every game like it was your last – you’re going to be done soon.
“I love the game, I look back at my career and I’ll remember the team this year more than any other team, more than the past five years. I’ve gotten along with these guys the best, we’re really good friends on and off the court.”
It was quite possibly team chemistry that helped the Bulldogs prevail against a tough Minot State team through overtime. Ervin contributed 22 points on seven for 18 shooting, Newton added a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds and Taylor Lavery contributed 16 points on four for nine from three.
Late in the game, Minot State’s ability to score quickly and aggressively made it look as though they were bound for victory – until the Bulldogs made five consecutive stops before Minot State hit the final bucket of regulation, tying the game at 67. In overtime the teams traded runs, but the last points scored were two free throws by Brett Ervin to seal the Bulldog victory.
After the game, Coach Bowen was pleased with his team’s performance. “These Saturday night games when I’m only playing six or seven guys are a challenge. Our guys dug down and got a win when they needed to. Against Winona, we have to execute like we have been on our three-game winning streak, and maybe even a little better.”
The Bulldogs postseason begins this Wednesday vs. Winona State in Romano Gym at 7 p.m.
BY WILLIAM E. CASSERL