The Minot State University men's basketball team is developing quite the winning recipe early this season.
For the third straight game, the Beavers rode massive advantages in rebounding and free-throw shooting to victory. MSU outrebounded Presentation College (S.D.) by 18 and made eight more foul shots in an 83-63 win Sunday at the MSU Dome.
MSU (3-0) boasts a plus-20 average rebounding margin through three games.
Minot State University senior forward Chris East drives past Presentation College forward Vladimir Charlitte on Sunday at the MSU Dome.
"Everybody says we're a smaller team but we have heart," said 6-foot-6 senior forward Samuel Johnson, who had a game-high 21 points and nine rebounds. "Me, Chris (East), (Lazar Boskovic), we're always challenging each other to get rebounds. If we keep doing that, we should be fine every game."
The NAIA Saints (5-1) kept the game competitive throughout the first half, but a scoring spree by MSU junior Thomas Korf gave the Beavers some separation.
The 6-5 wing drilled three 3-pointers in less than a minute - including one four-point play - to give MSU a 37-25 lead at half. Korf scored 15 of his 17 points before intermission.
"He doesn't miss," Johnson said. "If you give him a little space, it's going in so we're always looking for him - in transition, kick-outs, everything. And those were big shots that he made."
After scoring just five points in the first half, Johnson took over in the second. The athletic slasher routinely made his way to the paint for short floaters or midrange jump shots.
"He was really getting to the lane and finishing, creating for himself," MSU coach Matt Murken said. "He's moving better off the ball, putting himself in positions to score. When he's in attack mode, he's usually pretty good."
Presentation cut the deficit to nine early in the second half, but MSU maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way. E.J. Williams scored 15 points for the Beavers, and the 6-6 East just missed a double-double with nine points and 10 boards.
Despite all the positives, Murken said the Beavers could've played much better. MSU shot 33 percent in the first half and allowed the Saints to shoot 44 percent in the second.
"We executed a lot better offensively in the second half but we weren't as good defensively," Murken said. "I think we're taking steps forward as a program. I just told the guys, 'It's a step in the right direction that we won by 20, but we're still a little frustrated with the way we played.' "
Quincy Davis went 3 for 5 from 3-point range and led Presentation with 16 points. Chaz Hammond added 11.
MSU hosts Valley City State, another NAIA opponent, on Sunday at 3 p.m.
Daniel Allar covers Minot State University athletics. Follow him on Twitter