MSU falls in NCAA Central Region Tournament

Northwest Missouri State finish Mavs with 20-6 run

The MSU Maverick’s basketball team had their season come to an end over the weekend as they participated in the NCAA Central Regional tournament. The Mavs made it past the first round, but wound up coming short of a victory in round two.

First up for the Mavericks came the MSU Moorhead Dragons on Saturday. The two squads met up once earlier in the season where the Mavericks couldn’t finish the job in overtime. However, it was a different story this time as the Mavericks were able start the tournament off on a positive note.

Both teams gave each other all they had, never letting up, or letting the other team gain the advantage. Over the course of the game there were 25 lead changes as both teams strived to hold the lead.

It was the opening half that saw the majority of the lead changes, 16 in total, occur. Neither team was willing to give any ground as they battled back and forth throughout. For a few minutes the Dragons managed to build the largest lead of the first half, and lead by seven points on two occasions.

It wasn’t enough to put away the Mavericks early though, and with just under nine minutes left in the first half MSU Mankato grinded their way back into the lead after a layup by Jon Fuqua. The lead changed five more times before the half ended, but Moorhead was able to walk into the locker room with a three point lead of 45-42.

Jalen Pendleton led the Mavericks with 18 points per game this season. (Trevor Cokley/The Reporter)
Jalen Pendleton led the Mavericks with 18 points per game this season. (Trevor Cokley/The Reporter)

The back and forth nature of the first half resumed as the game got back underway in the second, as neither team figured out how to build anything more than a two possession lead. While both teams fought until the bitter end, it was the Mavericks that escaped the first round with a victory with a score of 85-81.

“These guys have battled, they’ve grinded victories out time after time, so for us to come in here I think we really over seeded some of the expectations I think the community, the university, and maybe even sometimes ourselves thought we could do,” explained Coach Margenthaler in the postgame press conference.

While both teams starting five had a terrific day, it was the bench play that ended up making the biggest difference in the final score. The Mavericks bench ended the game with 12 points compared the Dragons three.

Leading the game for the Mavericks was Fuqua who tallied 28 points and eight rebounds. Jalen Pendleton put up a double-double with 10 points and 11 assists. Joey Witthus also had a stand out game by providing 19 points along with four rebounds.

The Dragons Tanner Kretchman had a nice game scoring 27 points and dishing out six assists while his teammate Aaron Lien scored 19 while grabbing eight rebounds.

On Sunday the Mavericks played their second round match up against the Northwest Missouri State Bearcats. It was a first time meeting on the season for the two teams, and it also ended up being the last game of the season for the Mavericks.

Northwest didn’t waste any time getting things going as they started the game off with a 10-0 run. The Mavericks did their best to fight back into the game, but the best they could muster up was getting back within six points with just over fourteen minutes left in the game.

The Bearcats took back control of the game, and continued to outplay MSU in the first half. When the first half ended Northwest walked into the locker room with a commanding lead of 48-29.

MSU wasn’t going to go out of this tournament without a fight though. While the Bearcats controlled most of the second half as they did in the first, the Mavericks started to mount a comeback with just under ten minutes to go. After trailing by nineteen points to start the half, MSU chipped the lead down to eight points with just over eight minutes left in the game.

Those eight points were as near as the Mavs could get though, and the Bearcats ended the game on a 20-6 run that put away MSU for the season.

“I’m very proud of our guys for how they handled themselves tonight. There’s a lot of teams that could have, and would have just folded tonight, and our guys showed a lot of character,” said Coach Margenthaler.

Pendleton finished the game leading the way for the Mavericks, scoring 22 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Fuqua added another 17 points to the game along with his seven rebounds.

On the Bearcats end Justin Pitts finished with 38 points, while Connor Crooker added 18 of his own.
The loss puts the final touches on a season that exceeded the expectations of most. MSU finished the season with a record of 22-10.

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