Mavericks defeat Dragons 82-79

MSU moves onto second round of NSIC basketball tournament

Colton Molesky
Staff Writer

The Minnesota State Mavericks men’s basketball team burned the Minnesota State Moorhead Dragons for a tight 82-79 win at home in the first round of the 2018 NSIC Tournament at the Taylor Center.

Following a three-game losing streak to finish the season, the home team needed a victory to get back on track. Moorhead was eager to try and play the Cinderella role of underdog, as the 7-21 Dragons boasted a veteran backcourt with offensive prowess.

“Losing is out of our character, so we definitely wanted to get a win,” said Cameron Kirksey, a sophomore forward for the Mavericks, on the team’s mentality at tipoff. “After three losses, there’s a lot of hurt, a lot of pain and we knew we needed to come back and get a win.”

From the beginning, MSU was able to compensate for Moorhead’s perimeter shooting with efficient basketball, knocking down 60 percent of their shots in a first half that they led 42-40.

Despite tight play leading to early MSU turnovers, the Mavericks stayed afloat, thanks to 12 of Kirksey’s 20 points, which led all Mavericks in scoring on the night, coming in the first half. Kevin Krieger added 11 of his eventual 16 points in the opening 20 minutes.

After not trailing once in the first half, the Mavericks started the second half by promptly catching up to the Dragons. The Moorhead backcourt of Tanner Kretchman and Travaun Coad started to gain traction, a duo that would finish with a combined 37 points.

Since their 60 percent shooting start, the Mavericks were 4 of 10 in the opening six minutes of the second half. But then MSU substituted their key player off the bench: Carlos Anderson.

The 6-foot-4 guard played the bulk of his 26 minutes in the second half and finished with 14 points and 4 rebounds. He single-handedly outscored the Moorhead bench by 5 points and was a dependable presence driving into the lane when the Mavericks went cold from range.

“I just come off the bench and do my job,” said Anderson on his outing against Moorhead. “I know I have to come off and be aggressive right away off the bench and give us energy and I can sit back, take the back seat and do whatever I need to do.”

The game went down to the wire, as six lead changes kept the Dragons going broke from deep and finishing with 29 3-point attempts. Despite the Mavericks 52.6 percent shooting on the evening, extra scoring would be required to find the edge for the home team.

As the clock ticked down to the final seconds, MSU found that edge on their free throw shooting; going 15 of 18 from the charity stripe. Senior point guard Charlie Brown was the leader MSU needed to close out the game, going 5 of 6 from the line and getting four crucial buckets late.

“We had great leadership and execution down the stretch, our guys made plays and stepped up at the free throw line and that was the difference in the game,” said Mavericks head coach Mike Margenthaler after the tournament victory. “We finally got a couple stops, too. Offensively we were pretty good all night, but we just didn’t have that mindset and defensively we need to find that to advance or else the season is going to be over pretty quick.”

The Mavericks advance to play the second round of the tournament against Minot State in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The team looks for playoff magic as they head into the second round of the playoffs.

Photo: Maverick guard Carlos Anderson (#2) provided a spark off the bench in the Wednesday matchup against the Moorhead Dragons in the NSIC Tournament. (Mansoor Ahmad/MSU Reporter)

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