Minnesota Duluth men’s basketball coach Justin Wieck approached Brandon Myer after Saturday’s NSIC victory at Bemidji State and told him the Bulldogs would like to honor him for becoming the program’s all-time leading scorer before their next game.
Myer wanted no part of it.
“He stopped me in mid-sentence, and said, ‘Coach, I don’t want to do that before the game. It should be all about the team. I don’t need that recognition,’” Wieck recalled. “In the moment I said, ‘OK,’ but I asked him again Monday, and I asked him again Tuesday, but he never changed his mind. It’s a testament to the kind of player he is.”
Myer, a senior forward from Superior, had 35 points and 15 rebounds as UMD survived for a 92-87 double-overtime victory over Concordia-St. Paul in their NSIC tournament opener before 543 at Romano Gym.
The Bulldogs (21-8) had a lot riding on the game. They had just slipped a spot to No. 7 in the latest Central Region rankings released Wednesday, with the top eight teams making the NCAA Division II playoffs. They couldn’t afford to slip any further. Plus, for UMD’s six seniors, this was it, their last game at Romano. For them, in particular Myer, to leave here with a loss would have been a shame.
After all, Myer was on that same team that went 4-25 his freshman year in 2016-17; now, with 21 wins, UMD has its most victories since going 21-6 in 1996-97.
“Now, every time I come back, I’m going to have fond memories of my last game here,” said Myer, who scored at least 40 points in his three previous games to earn national player of the week honors. “It’s a lot better feeling than if we would have lost the last game here. This place holds so many memories, good and bad, so to end it on good means so much.”
Concordia-St. Paul (9-18) played like a team trying to keep its season alive.
“This was exactly what I thought it’d be honestly,” Wieck said. “They’re extremely talented offensively, and we struggled to guard them last time we played them, and we struggled to guard them today. But our guys never stopped fighting.”
UMD, the North Division’s No. 2 seed, advances to play South No. 3 Winona State at 8 p.m. Saturday in Sioux Falls, S.D.
It was rather fitting that Myer invited his entire team out afterward for a little ceremony honoring him as the program’s all-time leading scorer, passing Jay Guidinger, who was part of a taped video presentation at halftime.
This was a balanced effort with seniors Alex Illikainen (10 points), Logan Rohrscheib (12), Trevor Entwisle (13) and freshman Drew Blair (12) all scoring in double figures. Entwisle had a key steal and fastbreak layup in double overtime as UMD finally put away the Golden Bears.
Jordan Coblin had 20 points to lead Concordia, while former Duluth East product Cody Carlson had four points and seven rebounds before fouling out. The Golden Bears only have two seniors and have weathered quite the storm this year, with Eric Johnson being named interim head coach just before the season started after the former coach took another job.
“As a coach, you want your team to be playing its best ball at the end, and we did that,” Johnson said. “They truly became a team this season.”
Minnesota Duluth 92, Concordia-St. Paul 87
Concordia-St. Paul — Max Keefe 6-12 0-0 16, Cody Carlson 2-7 0-0 4, Carlos Barela 3-9 4-5 11, Lee Higgins 3-6 0-0 8, Jordan Coblin 8-15 2-7 20, Jacob Shields 1-7 3-4 5, Noah Kannegiesser 3-9 0-0 8, Perion Little 5-9 0-0 15. Totals 31-74 9-16 87.
Minnesota Duluth —
Brandon Myer 10-20 13-15 35, Alex Illikainen 5-12 0-0 10, Logan Rohrscheib 3-9 5-6 12, Trevor Entwisle 5-9 2-2 13, Drew Blair 2-5 8-8 12, Jack Middleton 2-4 0-1 5, Hunter Plamann 2-4 0-0 5, Yalim Olcay 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-64 28-32 92.
Halftime — UMD 40, CSP 35. 3-point goals — CSP 16-42 (Keefe 4-7, Carlson 0-2, Barela 1-4, Higgins 2-4, Coblin 2-7, Shields 0-1, Kannegiesser 2-8, Little 5-9), UMD 6-23 (Myer 2-6, Illikainen 0-4, Rohrscheib 1-4, Entwisle 1-3, Blair 0-1, Middleton 1-2, Plamann 1-3). Fouls — CSP 28, UMD 16. Fouled out — Keefe, Carlson, Barela. Rebounds — CSP 38 (Barela 8), UMD 47 (Myer 15). Assists — CSP 18 (Coblin 5), UMD 15 (Plamann 4). Turnovers — CSP 10 (Coblin 3), UMD 10 (Myer 5).
Minnesota Duluth 81, Upper Iowa 54
Brooke Olson did her best Brandon Myer impression, scoring a career-high 33 points as the North’s No. 1 seed Bulldogs broke from a 35-32 halftime lead with a dominating second half against the South’s No. 8 seed Peacocks.
Olson scored 15 points in the first seven minutes of the contest, including back-to-back 3-pointers that gave the Bulldogs (24-5) an 18-12 lead at 3:05 in the first quarter.
“She put on a clinic,” UMD coach Mandy Pearson said. “She’s a competitor. She’s so fun to watch.”
But Upper Iowa (3-26) came back behind its 3-point shooting, finishing 11-for-22 from beyond the arc for the game.
“Every team in this league is good, so you can’t look past anybody,” Pearson said. “They came ready to play and showed us some things that we need to work on.”
UMD finally put Upper Iowa with a dominating third quarter, outscoring the Peacocks 28-13.
The Bulldogs improved to 14-0 at home this season and are holding out hope Wednesday wasn’t their last home game as they could host the NCAA Division II Central Region tournament. Central Missouri continues to hold down the top spot in the regional rankings released Wednesday, with UMD still in second.
The Bulldogs hope a tournament run, and an upset against Central Missouri (23-4), could be enough for them to leapfrog the Jennies and host the region.
UMD advances to North No. 5 Northern State at noon Sunday in Sioux Falls.
“This was a huge testament to our team. This was such a fun game,” Olson said. “We would love to play back here, that’s what we’re hoping, but we have to take care of things on our end first.”