- Special Sections
- Local Guide
There are some coaches that load up on easy games to start the season.
But Valley City State University mens basketball coach Jeff Kaminsky isn't one of those coaches.
His team opened the season last weekend, going 1-1 against a pair of top 10-ranked teams in the NAIA and this weekend the Vikings will play at NCAA Division 1 North Dakota State University.
"A lot of good teams will try to play seven, eight, nine, ten games to rack up some wins early," Kaminsky said. "I like to challenge ourselves, and we have that. This first month of scheduling, we have one tough challenge after another.
"I think its going to test us and it's going to exploit those things we don't do well and not give us a false sense of where we're at. I want to have a real sense of where we're at as we get into Christmas and into the New Year."
Tuesday, the Vikings rose to their latest challenge, beating NCAA Division II opponent Minnesota â€” Crookston 66-50 in their home opener at W.E. Osmon Fieldhouse.
The Vikings got behind strong performances from newcomer Gus Kueber and returners Aaron Duske, AJ McDonald and Sekani Milligen to beat the visiting Golden Eagles. The four combined for 56 of the team's points as the team broke out of an early slump to control the entire second half.
But it took a bit for the two offenses to get going.
The Vikings got a 3-pointer from McDonald a minute and a half into the game to get a 3-0 lead, but soon fell behind as the Eagles went up 10-5 over the next few minutes.
Despite getting lay-ins by Duske and a few points each from Kueber and McDonald, the Golden Eagle kept the Vikings from taking the lead until late in the half. It was a shot by Patrick Rogers that gave VCSU the lead, when he sunk a deep 3-pointer to take a 24-23 lead with 6:26 left in the half.
Crookston got a free throw from Brandon Burns to tie it up 13 seconds later, but it took about two minutes until McDonald broke the tie with a free throw.
Anthony Saavedra helped increase the lead and Milligen had two free throws to go up 30-26.
Kueber finished the half on a strong note, dropping a buzzer beater several feet behind the 3-point line. He waited after landing, watching the ball bounce around on the rim for several seconds, before falling into the net for a 33-28 lead at halftime.
From there, the Vikings went into a defensive lockdown, getting early points but limiting Crookston's points as the Eagles lost players to foul trouble and couldn't get within striking distance.
It helped as Kueber went off for 13 second-half points and McDonald, filling in for injured guard John Raquel, led the offense by using his speed to open up holes for passing down low.
Keuber finished the game with 18 points. Duske and Milligen were next with 13 each and McDonald had 12. No other player had more than three points.
It was the result of strong shooting. The Vikings finished the game with a 53.7 shooting percentage. The difference between the team's 55 percent shooting in the first half and 52.4 in the second half was one extra shot in the second half.
McDonald, Milligen, Kueber and Dylan Ostrom each combined for six rebounds.
Kaminsky said he was pleased with his team's ability to control the tempo.
"I thought tonight we played both halves more on our terms," he said. "Just a little tougher minded defensively and I thought our ball movement was better at times."
The Vikings continue the season Friday at North Dakota State University.