Joey Witthus and Aarias Austin combined for 24-second half points to help the Minnesota State men’s basketball team outscore the Concordia-St. Paul Golden Bears 47-24 in the second half to advance in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) Tournament on Sunday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The Mavericks showed early indications the game was going to be dominated by MNSU, but Concordia-St. Paul made sure to keep things within striking distance. At the halfway mark of the first half, Minnesota State led 19-11. The Golden Bears’ Ted Brown and Diallo Powell answered back, combining for eight points to help cut down the deficit.
Minnesota State built their lead back up to seven with three minutes to go, but the Golden Bears went on a 6-0 run to end the half to bring the Mavericks lead down to one heading into the half, 27-26.
The second half was the Witthus and Austin show, as the two accounted for 50 percent of the Mavericks’ offense. The Golden Bears took a one-point lead to get the second half underway, however the lead was fleeting as Minnesota State’s Jay Knuth hit a jumper to regain the lead and the Mavs were in firm control from there.
Within the next five minutes, the Mavs built their lead up to double-digits and only led by single digits once the rest of the way. With seven minutes left, the sequence of Austin hitting a three-pointer, Witthus hitting a layup, and Austin drilling a jumper the Mavericks built their lead up to 20 points, the biggest lead of the game aside from Pope Grant putting them up late in the game, with just over five minutes to go.
The Mavericks’ Austin finished with 21 points, seven rebounds, and five assists. Joey Witthus had 16 points and seven boards, Knuth scored 11 points, and Cameron Kirksey added eight points and four rebounds off the bench. The Golden Bears were led by Powell’s 16 points while Brown added 12 points.
Concordia-St. Paul had the edge in the battle of the boards, 37-34. The Mavericks shot a game-best 45 percent from the floor as a team.
The Mavericks then faced Upper Iowa next, which proved to be a much more challenging game. Both teams entered the game 21-9 overall, and Minnesota State had lost twice to them in the regular season, the last one coming in an overtime decision.
In a back-and-forth affair, the Mavericks certainly had their hands full in the first half. Upper Iowa was able to shoot 50-plus percent from the floor, as the Mavericks shot under 40. The second half of play started out well for the Mavs, as they went on an 11-4 scoring run to open the first five minutes of play. As they have been all season against the Mavericks, the Peacocks showed they wanted it more. The Peacocks would ultimately make more plays in the end, as they defeated the Mavericks 63-55. Senior Jon Fuqua finished with a game-high 20 points and 14 rebounds. With the loss, Minnesota State’s season could very well be finished. The NCAA Division-II selections will be this upcoming weekend to decide if the Mavericks will have more basketball to play.