Since the last time students packed up their books for the semester, the Minnesota State Mavericks men’s basketball team have gone 5-3, while winning five of their past six games. At just over halfway through the regular season, the Mavericks are starting to build momentum which will be pivotal as they look to finish strong this year.
The winter break did not get off to the start the team would have liked, as they suffered back-to-back home losses against Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) opponents. On Dec. 9, Minnesota State lost by 25 points to Winona State. The Warriors’ Isaiah Gray scored 26 points, while three of his teammates also achieved double-digit scoring in defeating the Mavericks, 89-64.
While Minnesota State’s game the following night was a bit closer, they still could not muster up enough to get the win. Minnesota State welcomed Upper Iowa to Bresnan Arena but lost by five points, as the Peacocks walked away with an 82-77 win.
With those tough losses out of the way, the Mavericks started to roll. On Dec. 17, the men traveled to St. Paul to take on Concordia-St. Paul in another NSIC game. The Mavericks got back on track, thanks to Aarias Austin’s 24 points as the team earned a narrow victory, 86-82.
Minnesota State’s biggest win of the break came on Dec. 19 in a non-conference affair with Waldorf in Mankato. The Mavericks walked away with nearly a 50-point victory as they walloped the Warriors, 102-57. Minnesota State outscored Waldorf 57-24 in the second half of action and was led by Jon Fuqua’s 20 points and five rebounds.
The Mavs hit the road again and returned to NSIC action as they faced off against MSU-Moorhead on Dec. 30 in Moorhead and Northern State on Dec. 31 in Aberdeen, S.D. Joey Witthus scored 27 points, including going 5-7 from three-point land, in a 74-65 win over Moorhead. Witthus followed up that performance with 22 points against Northern State. Fuqua also added 21 points and seven rebounds in a 90-85 victory.
In the third loss of the break, Minnesota State fell to Augustana. Going into the half, Minnesota State was down by 11 points, yet they started to claw their way back in the second half but it was too late. Augustana still outscored them by four points in the second half and walked away with an 85-70 NSIC victory. The Vikings had five players in double-digit scoring compared to the Mavericks’ two.
Winter break did end on a positive note. Minnesota State welcomed Wayne State to Mankato and faced similar adversity that they did in the previous outing against Augustana. Wayne State got off to a great start and walked into the locker rooms at half-time holding onto a 41-36 lead. However, Minnesota State came out in the second half on a mission and outscored Wayne State 51-37 to secure an 87-78 win.
After going on a three-game losing streak at the start of December, it seems like the Mavericks have started to figure things out. They did suffer two losses to a great NSIC South team in Augustana, and Upper Iowa is among the top teams in the NSIC as well, so it’s important to keep in mind that their losses were against two top-tier teams in the conference.
With 13 games left in the regular season, the Mavericks have plenty of time to continue building and growing as a team. They’ve been getting terrific performances from their core players and are continuing to grow as a unit every time they step onto the court with each other.
The Mavericks will be back in action against Concordia-St. Paul at 8 p.m., tonight, at the Taylor Center.