The St. Cloud State women’s basketball team gets a tough test Friday night when it is host to undefeated Bemidji State at 6 p.m.
As a matter of fact, both teams are undefeated at 5-0 overall and 1-0 in the NSIC. The Beavers are vastly improved from a year ago and are led by 5-7 junior guard Morgan Lee, who averages 17.6 points a game.
Guard Lanae Rush has added 15.6 points and 7.4 rebounds a game and freshman center Jessie Althoff is chipping in 10.4 points and 4.2 rebounds a game.
SCSU head coach Lori Fish said the Beavers have a balanced attack.
“They shoot the 3 a lot and I think they’re finally healthy up there. They’ve done a nice job so far this season,” Fish said. “Lee shoots the ball well. They run a lot of stuff through her. We have to know where she’s at and limit her touches.”
The Huskies have had a lot of success against the Beavers over the years. SCSU has won 4 of the last 5 against BSU, including a 74-66 win in Bemidji last season. The Beavers haven’t won in St. Cloud since 1993.
“We’ve had some success against them, but it’s never come easy,” Fish said. “We have to do what we do well. We have to force turnovers and execute on the offensive end. That will be the key.”
The Huskies are coming off a strong NSIC opener where they rolled to an 80-60 win over travel partner Minnesota-Duluth. Junior guard Sam Price and sophomore forward Jessica Benson each had 24 points in that victory. Fish is hoping her team has gained a lot of confidence from their undefeated start.
“I hope we have,” she said. “We really hope to build off that win. It won’t be easy (Friday). No one’s going to give us anything. I think our team is ready for the challenge. We haven’t played back-to-back games yet. That’s going to be new for our younger players. They’ll get that experience.”
SCSU gets Minnesota-Crookston (0-1, 3-2) at home at 4 p.m. Saturday. The Huskies beat the Golden Eagles 75-67 in Crookston last season. Bemidji beat Crookston 74-66 last Saturday.
The Golden Eagles are led by Brittani Wiese, who averages 16.6 points, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Crookston plays a guard-oriented lineup.
“That will cause some matchup problems for us,” Fish said. “They play five on the perimeter at times with five guards. Our post players aren’t used to that. I think our starters will be OK, but our freshmen haven’t done that. I think that will challenge them on how to handle the peneration with perimeter players.”
Fish hopes that sophomore Carley Jeffery can play this weekend after missing the first part of the season with a knee injury. Jeffery returned to practice this week. Fish is going to be cautious with Jeffery.
“If the opportunity presents itself, she’ll get some minutes,” Fish said. “She practiced, but we’re not pushing it. She’s behind, especially conditioning-wise. She hadn’t done anything since August.”
The Bemidji State men’s basketball team likes to shoot from downtown. The Beavers are so proficient at it that they lead all of Division II in three-point percentage at 49 percent for the season (49 of 100).
Albany High School graduate Zach Noreen shoots 60 percent from beyond the arc. He’s averaging 13.6 points and three rebounds per game.
“Noreen is shooting and playing fantastic,” SCSU head coach Kevin Schlagel said. “They’re doing a lot of the same things they did last year and are taking advantage of their experience. They’ve added a few new offensive sets.”
The Beavers have a new head coach in Mike Boschee this season. Boschee takes over for Matt Bowen, who guided BSU to the postseason last year before leaving for the UMD head job.
The Beavers are off to a 3-2 start and beat Crookston 90-58 last Saturday to open the NSIC season. Their losses came to No. 5 Metro State and Michigan Tech.
“I think they’ve taken the best of what was left over from last year and added a few touches to it,” Schlagel said. “To lead the country in three-point shooting is amazing. We have to be able to control that. Plus, we have to establish our inside game right away.”
The Huskies moved up to No. 14 in this week’s NABC/Division II coaches poll. St. Cloud State is off to a 4-0 start and hoping to build momentum into next weekend when they hit the road for the first time with trips to Northern State and MSU-Moorhead. The Huskies get Crookston at 6 p.m. Saturday.
“We take the ranking as a compliment,” Schlagel said. “We also realize that we’re only as good as our last game. We have to take care of business at home. We’d like to stay as high as No. 14.”
Crookston is still coached by Jeff Oseth. The Golden Eagles went 3-19 in the NSIC last year and were 7-19 overall. Crookston is 3-2 so far overall and 0-1 in the conference.
The Golden Eagles are led by Brandon Burns’ 15.8 points per game and Abdou Niang’s 8.2 rebounds a game.
“They’re a pretty big team. They have a couple of 6-10 guys who can rotate at the center spot. Then they have some 6-6 and 6-8 forwards. They’re very athletic,” Schlagel said. “Their starting point guard is back from last year. They have a comibnation of experience, mixed in with some JUCO players, that have filled roles for them.”
Junior forward Kenquane Brown has a small tear in the mensicus of one of his knees, but will try and play through it. Brown missed last Saturday’s game.
Schlagel is hoping for more big crowds this weekend. The Huskies brought in more than 2,400 for their opener against UMD.
“That crowd had one of the better atmospheres that I can remember at SCSU,” said Schlagel. “The students were into it and we had a lot of exciting plays that got people involved. Hopefully it keeps up.”