WAYNE — The Wayne State men's basketball team wasted a first-half comeback against Minnesota State University-Moorhead as the Dragons rebounded in the second 20 minutes to finish off an 82-71 win over the Wildcats here at Rice Auditorium Friday evening.
The game was one of the few sporting events held Friday night as Mother Nature wiped out most of the schedule throughout Northeast Nebraska.
The Dragons were already in Wayne after arriving the night before the snow arrived, so the game went on as scheduled.
After leading by as many as a dozen in the first half, MSU-Moorhead took a direct blow from the Wildcats later in the frame as WSC tied the score 28-28 on an Al'Tavius Jackson fast-break basket in the paint with 7 minutes, 41 seconds left before the intermission.
"I feel like I'm saying the same things every week," Wildcat coach Jeff Kaminsky said. "We played well enough to win. We just need to finish one of these games."
The Wildcats trailed 20-8 some seven minutes before Jackson's basket evened the score.
Nate Thayer canned a 3 to make it 20-11 heading into a media timeout in the opening half.
Jordan Janssen hit two of his 21 points after the timeout and WSC was within seven, 20-13.
"Our margin for error is very narrow in this league," Kaminsky said. "We just can't continue to dig ourselves a big hole and expect to come out of it and win. We spend too much energy coming back."
The Dragon lead would balloon back up to 11 with 11:28 left before halftime, but the Wildcats responded again.
Henry Penner came off of Kaminsky's bench and hit a 3 with 11:11 left to make it 26-18 and then Ben Dentlinger hit a shot in the paint to make it 26-20.
Janssen made a short jumper to get the Wildcats to within four at 26-22.
"We made some great runs at them to get back in the game," Kaminsky said. "But it seemed like we would get so close, then turn over the ball or take an ill-advised shot."
Nick Ferrarini made four consecutive free throws for Wayne State to get it to 28-26 with 8:18 left before Jackson's bucket evened the score.
"We play well enough to win these games," Kaminsky said. "But we just find a way to shoot ourselves in the foot at the worst possible time."
By the end of the half, the MSU-Moorhead lead would get back to double-digits with a 43-33 advantage with 2:31 left on the first-half clock and the lead settled at nine, 48-39 when the teams headed to the halftime locker room.
A Penner jump shot with 11:31 left in the contest brought the Wildcats back to within two, 58-56, but a 3 and an outside jumper from Johnny Beeninga put the Dragons back in front by seven 63-56.
The Dragons outscored Wayne State 8-2 in the final 1:31 of the game to seal the win.
"I like our energy and our willingness to work hard," Kaminsky said, "We just need to play smarter and not have lapses in the game."
MSU-M 48 34 — 82
WSC 39 32 — 71
MINNESOTA STATE-MOORHEAD (10-7, 6-5): Jack Rusch 6 5-5 20; Dane Zimmer 1 2-6 4; Johnny Beeninga 4 2-2 10; Gavin Baumgartner 8 6-8 24; Kaedrick Williams 2 3-4 7; Bryce Irsfeld 1 6-6 9; Jesse Bergh 1 0-0 2; Joe Sevlie 2 2-3 6.
WAYNE STATE COLLEGE (6-14, 3-8): Ben Dentlinger 1 0-1 2; Jordan Janssen 10 1-1 21; Nick Ferrarini 3 5-6 11; Al'Tavius Jackson 3 1-2 7; Nate Mohr 5 2-2 12; Nate Thayer 4 0-0 10; Henry Penner 3 0-0 8.