A big crowd helped spur St. Cloud State to an easy victory Saturday.
Playing in front of the biggest crowd since March 2010 when the NSIC Tournament was at Halenbeck Hall, the Huskies rolled to a 97-68 win over Minnesota-Duluth in the conference opener for both teams. The announced crowd was 2,416 at Halenbeck, but it seemed even bigger.
“It was a big boost for us to have so many fans here,” said SCSU sophomore center James Fort, who had 15 points and seven rebounds.
“Hopefully they keep coming. It helps us out a lot. We have to protect this house. It’s our home court and we don’t lose here often. We need to keep that going.”
It was the Huskies’ first home game of the season. After beginning practice in mid-October, the team was excited to play in front of the home crowd after beginning the season with four games on the road.
“Having this many people here at our first home game really energized our team,” said SCSU junior guard Damarius Cruz, who had 13 points, including 11 in the first half.
“They helped us get this win. There were a lot of (SCSU) football players here tonight. My roommate is (safety) Kyle Risinger and he helped organize it. He got them over here and we fed off the energy.”
It also helped that the Bulldogs only played seven players due to a team rules violation that forced new head coach Matt Bowen to sit over half of his team.
UMD’s top three scorers were on the bench, along with former St. Cloud State center Ben Bucholz. Bowen is in his first year with the Bulldogs after spending six years at Bemidji State.
“There are standards in our program as a new coach that I want met. We haven’t met them through our four games so far this season. It was an off-the-court issue,” Bowen said. “We didn’t do anything illegal. It’s just standards in our program and where we want to go. The kids that didn’t play tonight didn’t meet those standards.
“I had to draw a line in the sand to make sure everybody understands my expectations. I felt if I let it go, or let it side, or tell them I’ll get them next time – that’s not how I want this program to be.”
The Bulldogs especially missed the contributions of senior guard Jake Hottenstine (14.3 points a game) and junior center Brett Ervin (11 points a game).
“They had several guys sitting out who were major contributors for them,” SCSU head coach Kevin Schlagel said. “It’s unfortunate it happened, but I understand from a coaching standpoint that he had to send a message. He certainly did tonight.
“It’s nice to see that we played with a lot of intensity and a lot of guys came in and contributed. That’s what you’re looking for when you build a lead like we did.”
The No. 22-ranked Huskies (1-0 NSIC, 4-0 overall) had a double-digit lead less than seven minutes in. St. Cloud State had five players in double figures, led by Theo Rothstein’s 22 points and eight rebounds.
St. Cloud State had a its first 20-plus point lead at 37-15 after a three-point play from Fort. From there, it was all about the Huskies trying to play maintain a big lead.
Freshman point guard Jordan Poydras added 17 points off the bench and Shaun Jensen had a double-double of 11 points and 10 assists. The Huskies shot 54.7 percent from the field.
SCSU had a 40-12 scoring advantage in the paint thanks to the solid play of Fort, who was bothered by a strained MCL in his right knee during the week.
SCSU is hoping this win translates into a fast start in the NSIC.
“It was nice to be home and see a great crowd like this,” Schlagel said. “The big thing for us is taking care of business at home. This was a nice way to get started.”
Peter Crawford 2-8 3-4 7, Jordan Reetz 7-14 7-9 24, Erik Powers 1-2 0-0 2, Austin Pohlen 1-4 4-7 6 (4 assists), Calahan Skogman 3-8 3-4 11, Bryan Sprang 2-8 5-7 10 (8 rebounds), Kristofer Jackson 4-10 0-2 8. Totals: FG 20-54, FT 22-33, REB 34, PF 20, TO 10.
ST. CLOUD STATE (97)
Theo Rothstein 8-13 4-4 22 (8 rebounds, 3 steals), Connor Niehaus 0-4 0-0 0 (9 rebounds), James Fort 4-6 7-13 15 (7 rebounds), Shaun Jensen 4-7 2-3 11 (10 assists), Damarius Cruz 5-9 1-2 13, Kevin Levandoski 1-2 0-0 2, Jordan Poydras 6-7 0-0 17, Preston McCourt 0-1 0-0 0, Jon Christensen 0-1 0-0 0, Tyson Kalien 2-5 0-0 6, Scott Hawkins 0-3 0-0 0, Chris Larson 2-2 1-2 5. Totals: FG 35-64, FT 15-24, REB 39, PF 21, TO 5.
Three-pointers: UMD 6-24 (Crawford 0-1, Reetz 3-7, Pohlen 0-2, Skogman 2-7, Sprang 1-3, Jackson 0-4); SC 12-30 (Rothstein 2-6, Niehaus 0-1, Jensen 1-2, Cruz 2-6, Levandoski 0-1, Poydras 5-6, McCourt 0-1, Kalien 2-5, Hawkins 0-2); Fouled out: Powers; Halftime score: SC 48, UMD 28; Points in the paint: SC 40, UMD 12; Points off turnovers: SC 14, UMD 5; Second-chance points: UMD 16, SC 12; Fastbreak points: SC 4, UMD 0; Bench points: SC 36, UMD 18; Deadball rebounds: SC 5, UMD 5; A: 2,416.