Minnesota State’s men’s basketball team hit the road for the last time in the regular season this past weekend and split games against Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) opponents. Both games ended in dramatic fashion, with a loss in overtime against Upper Iowa and a last second shot for a win against Winona State. With the win and loss, the Mavericks move to an 18-8 overall record and 13-7 in the NSIC.
“We played extremely well and we competed all weekend long, that’s a big thing for us. We gave ourselves a chance to win, we just unfortunately went on a little offensive drought for a short time late in the game and that was the difference,” head coach Matt Margenthaler said.
The Mavericks opened up the weekend against Upper Iowa on Friday in Fayette, Iowa. MNSU’s Jay Knuth got the scoring started with two free throws to put the Mavericks up, 2-0. The Mavericks didn’t surrender their lead throughout the rest of regulation.
With just over eight minutes left in the first half, Minnesota State’s Charlie Brown nailed a layup to build the lead to double-digits, 26-15. Within five minutes the Mavericks built the lead up to 15 points, but Upper Iowa continued to fight as they narrowed the deficit to single digits going into the locker room with Minnesota State leading, 37-28.
Coming out of the break, Upper Iowa’s Jordan Hay scored five-unanswered points to bring the game within four points. As the Peacocks continued to chip away, Luke Lenhart hit a three pointer to bring the deficit to three points with 17:46 to go. The close game started to get away from Upper Iowa, as the Mavericks built another double-digit lead half way through the second. With 8:41 left, the Mavericks led by 15 but Hay would pop up again to thwart the blowout. Hay scored nine of Upper Iowa’s final 20 points as they erased the deficit and ended regulation tied at 66.
Overtime started with Hay continuing his scoring spree and hitting two free throws to give Upper Iowa its first lead. Maverick Jon Fuqua hit two free throws to tie it and Brown followed with a jumper shortly after but no Minnesota State player scored the rest of the way and Upper Iowa worked a double-digit 83-73 overtime victory.
“We competed for 45 minutes [but] we just didn’t get the win. We let one get away there’s no doubt about that,” said Margenthaler.
Minnesota State’s Fuqua scored 14 points, Trey Sampson scored 12 points, and Cole Harper added 10 rebounds.
Minnesota State followed that tough loss with a matchup at Winona State on Saturday. Once again, Knuth got the scoring started, this time with a three-pointer. The Mavericks didn’t surrender their lead the entire first half, as they continued to show off their potential for dominance.
“Just coming back from a tough loss on Friday night shows the character of our guys,” Margenthaler said on bouncing back right away the following night.
Behind a combined 16-first half points from Aarias Austin and Cameron Kirksey, the Mavericks built their lead up to 14 points with just over six minutes to go in the first half. Winona State didn’t let the lead get out of hand though, and they brought the game back within four as Minnesota State led, 38-34.
In less than two minutes into the second half, the Warriors snatched their first lead of the game after Kyle Bauman drilled a three-pointer. After having no lead changes in the first half, the lead changed nine different times in the final 20 minutes.
With two minutes to go, the score was even at 66 each. Fuqua split free throws with 1:24 left to gain a one-point advantage and Kyle Bauman retaliated shortly after to give Winona State the one-point lead with less than a minute left. As the clock wound down, Austin hit Fuqua with a pass and Fuqua drained a shot to regain the lead. Winona State’s Isaiah Gray missed a three-pointer as time expired and Minnesota State won, 69-68.
“Jon [Fuqua] made a big-time move to finish it. That’s what our seniors have to do. We’re only going to be as good and go as far as our seniors take us and those are the things we expect from them going down the stretch,” said Margenthaler.
Minnesota State’s Austin scored 16 points, Kirskey had 15 points, Joey Witthus scored 11 points, Cole Harper had 10 points, and Fuqua added nine points and six rebounds.
“We lay on the line and understand that every one of these games are big games for us and must-wins when you’re trying to get into that large bid of the NCAA Tournament,” said Margenthaler.
Minnesota State will return home for their last two home games of the regular season as they take on Southwest Minnesota State on Friday and Sioux Falls on Saturday.