Tigers surge in second half

MARSHALL – Having previously beaten the Luverne Cardinals 60-41 on Jan. 8 and with a Top 10 matchup with the Blake School looming the next day, the Marshall boys’ basketball knew it was walking into a trap with the Cardinals in town on Friday night.

Fortunately for the No. 7 (Class AAA) Tigers, a 32-16 edge in rebounds and a 47-point second half guided Marshall clear of the upset and to a 82-63 win over Luverne.

“Our offensive flow in the first half wasn’t where we needed it to be, and our guys kept after in the second half,” Marshall head coach Travis Carroll said. “We definitely got some good looks on the offensive end in the second half, we were more in the offensive flow.”

Four Tigers reached double figures scoring and a fifth added nine points to give Marshall a three game cushion on second-place Luverne in the Southwest Conference standings.

Derek Buysse led the way with 22 points and seven rebounds, while Austin Saugstad added 16 points, six rebounds and five assists.

Knowing the Tigers’ penchant for attacking the rim from the paint and the baseline, the Cardinals made a few tweaks to their zone defense in hopes of slowing down the Marshall offense.

“They really tried to pack it in with a lot of guys in the lane and down low, so that was a little different,” Saugstad said. “We thought we could get some gaps in the middle, but they kind of packed that in.”

The changes worked for awhile, as Luverne led Marshall 12-11 with 10 minutes, 58 seconds to play in the opening half, but the Tigers knocked down six of their eight 3-pointers for the game while building a 31-20 lead with under three minutes to play before halftime.

“We knew it was coming and it is what it is,” Carroll said of the Cardinals zone. “Our guys handled it pretty well tonight so it was good to see how they handled it.”

Luverne (13-6 overall, 6-3 SWC) responded with a 10-4 run to close out the half, and saw a tip-in at the buzzer rim out to send Marshall into the locker room with a 35-30 lead.

Marshall’s defense was off by a step all night, according to Carroll, as the Tigers’ allowed the third most points they have all season in the win. Brett Heronimus scored 22 to lead a trio of Cardinals in double figures.

“We did not play up to our expectation tonight on defense,” Carroll said. “We could have communicated better and done the fundamentals better on the defensive end. That’s something that we need to work on going forward and we’ll have another opportunity tomorrow.”

Marshall took its time getting started offensively in the second half as well, but used a 13-3 run, highlighted by an Aaron Mathiowetz one-touch pass to Hunter Peterson, who got the bucket and the foul to put Marshall up 48-37 with 13:52 remaining, to take control of the game. Tanner Bukowski’s 18-footer capped off the run to put the Tigers up 56-40 with 11:33 to play.

Peterson finished with nine points for the Tigers, while Bukowski added 14. Mathiowetz had four boards and a team-high six assists for Marshall. And Riley Sharbono also finished with 14 points in the win.

The Cardinals tried to come back late, but were unable to cut the Marshall lead to less than 10.

After Luverne’s Matt Arends hit a 3 to make the score 66-56 with 4:35 to go, the Tigers outscored Luverne 16-7 to close out their fifth win in a row.

According to Saugstad, the Tigers (16-2, 9-0) refused to look forward to today’s showdown with No. 3 Blake in Minneapolis at any point in Friday’s contest.

“We really wanted to focus on tonight and get the win because it is a big conference game and it meant a lot,” he said. “But we’ll take care of tomorrow when it gets there and we’ll be ready.”

Carroll agreed and said that he hopes his squad’s strong finish against the Cardinals will translate into a quick start against the Bears.

“It was very important to finish this game on a good note because tomorrow’s going to be a tremendous challenge, but it’s a challenge that we are looking forward to,” Carroll said. “(We need to) come and play some defense tomorrow because (Blake’s) going to be an extremely talented offensive team.”