Averaging nearly 104 points per game, defense was the difference for United Tribes Monday night.
The Thunderbirds forced Lake Region State College into 26 turnovers to pull away for an 81-67 home Mon-Dak victory.
Famous Lefthand led all scorers with 22 points. Jesse White scored 16 off the bench, to with six rebounds, as the Thunderbirds improved to 7-4 in league play and 13-6 overall against a Lake Region squad better than its 3-17 record would indicate.
"They're a team that wants to keep the score down and make it more of a half-court game," United Tribes head coach Pete Conway said. "They've been in a lot of close games. They've played a tough schedule, so we expected a competitive game."
The Royals have three players 6-8 or better, but the undersized Thunderbirds were able to hang on the glass
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"They beat us up a little on the boards, but I thought we were able to get a lot of 50-50 balls that allowed us to get out in transition," Conway said. "We didn't shoot it great, but forcing them into 26 turnovers allowed us to create some transition opportunities and kind of make up for not shooting the ball as well."
The Thunderbirds held the Royals to 34 points in the first half and 33 in the second.
"I thought we were pretty active defensively," said Conway, who used some full-court pressure to speed up the Royals.
As usual, the Thunderbirds took care of the ball (7 turnovers) and shared it, totaling 22 assists in the win.
"We were pretty stagnant in the first half I thought. Little too much 1-on-1 stuff," Conway said. "In the second half we started moving the ball a little better. We're pretty hard to guard when we play like that."
Behind Lefthand (22) and White (16) two other Thunderbirds were in double figures. Tristin Davis came off the bench to score 11 points and pull down five rebounds. Cayden Redfield finished with 10.
Middleton had just seven points, but filled it up otherwise with nine rebounds, six assists and three steals.
Up next for the Thunderbirds is a home date against cross-town rival Bismarck State College on Thursday night. The Thunderbirds won the first meeting in New Town early in the season, but had to rally to do so.
"We were dead in the water," Conway said of the overtime victory, 94-88. "They're another team that you can't look at their record. They have good players and they've been improving and playing better as the season has gone on.
"I told the guys, we're pretty lucky to have a rival in town. Not many JUCO programs have that. The community really gets behind this game, so it should be a fun night."
Reach Tribune sports editor Dave Selvig at (701) 250-8246 or email@example.com