‘We are giving it everything we have and are loving every second of the journey’
The Minnesota State Mavericks have successfully proven that they were worthy of being the No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament, upsetting the Northwest Missouri State Bearcats on Saturday, and then defeating the Southwest Minnesota State Mustangs on Sunday. Both games were played in Maryville, Missouri.
During the first game of the weekend for the Mavericks against NWMSU, the Bearcats were the No. 1 seed and the defending national champions. Luckily for the Mavericks, NWMSU was without their best player, Justin Pitts, who was sidelined with an ankle injury.
Current Bearcat player and former Maverick Joey Witthus was a game changer for the Bearcats. Witthus, who’d spent the first two years of his collegiate career in Mankato, finished the contest with 19 points on the day for the Bearcats. Witthus transferred to NWMSU last spring and averaged 11.9 points and 2.8 rebounds per game for them this season.
The two teams looked even through the first 20 minutes of play, as the Mavericks went to the locker room with a 22-21 lead. Carlos Anderson gave the Mavericks the last second lead before halftime with a buzzer-beating three-point step-back.
Things would change coming out of halftime, as this half would be controlled by the Mavericks. Charlie Brown had scored zero points in the first half but would score all of his 23 points in the final half. Brown would finish the game with 23 points, five rebounds and four assists.
The No. 8 seeded Mavericks would upset No. 1 NWMSU by a final score of 60-50.
After upsetting the Bearcats in the first round, the Mavericks were back in action on Sunday in the round of 32, as they played the No. 4 Southwest Minnesota State Mustangs.
The storyline going into this game against SMSU was that the final four teams in the Central Division of the NCAA Tournament were all from the NSIC. The four teams included Minnesota State, Southwest Minnesota State, Northern State and St. Cloud State.
The contest between MSU and SMSU was back and forth from the opening tip-off, as the Mavericks led heading into halftime by a score of 41-40.
The second half was no different. Each team would exchange baskets, with neither team having more than a five-point lead during the second half.
The Mavericks would go on to hold onto the halftime lead and win by a final score of 74-70.
The two key players for SMSU were Carter Kirk and Ryan Bruggeman. Kirk would finish his final game with the Mustangs with 23 points and nine rebounds. Bruggeman would end the game with 12 points and 11 assists.
The Mavericks were led by the tag-team effort of Charlie Brown and Chris Kendrix. Brown finished the contest with 19 points, three rebounds and four assists. Kendrix would also score 19 points and add an additional five rebounds.
The victory was sealed when freshman Jamal Nixon was fouled in the final 30 seconds of play. Nixon would pull down a defensive rebound with 21 seconds left before being fouled. The Mavericks were leading 70-68 when Nixon was fouled.
With the Mavericks in the bonus, Nixon would have a crack at a one-and-one. Nixon would make the first free-throw to give the Mavericks a 71-68 lead. Nixon would sink the next free throw as well to put the game out of reach for the Mustangs.
Kevin Krieger would make two more free-throws in the final seconds to give the Mavericks the 74-70 victory.
Cole Harper commented on the team’s recent success.
“We are built different,” said Harper. “We have a never say die attitude. We were given a No. 8 seed in a year where we weren’t expected to make it into the tournament. We don’t have anything to lose and that shows on the court with guys fighting for loose balls and rebounds. We are giving it everything we have and are loving every second of the journey.”
With the two victories, the Mavericks advance to the Sweet 16 and will play Northern State in the Regional Championship tonight at 7 p.m. for a chance of moving on to the Elite 8.