The 12-4 Minnesota State Mavericks have unfortunately been bitten by the injury bug recently, with players such as Brady Williams and Malik Willingham missing games this season.
Sophomore, Williams, has been out since Dec. 16 with a bulging disk in his back, according to Mavs coach, Matthew Margenthaler. Junior guard, M. Willingham, is the most recent Maverick to suffer an injury, where Jan. 6, he went down with a knee injury and is expected to be sidelined for a few weeks.
Coach Margenthaler still expressed a lot of confidence in the team and players stepping up due to the unfortunate circumstances.
“I think the nice thing about our group is that we do have really good depth and guys who can step up,” said Margenthaler.
Between Tyrell Stuttley moving into the starting lineup, Malcolm Jones playing well, and Chase Bartlett getting more opportunities, the Mavs will be in good hands while Williams and M. Willingham continue to heal.
Nevertheless, the season continues on and the Mavs will be on the road this weekend, taking on two conference opponents and trying to prove that they are still a top team in their conference.
Friday, Jan. 13, the Mavs will be in Golden Eagle country, taking on the University of Minnesota Crookston. From 1994-2018, the Mavs won every single game against the Golden Eagles, and the 24 game win streak during that time is the longest winning streak against any opponent in team history. However, after one loss in 2019, the Mavs rebounded in their next matchup and hold a 25-1 series advantage all-time.
The Golden Eagles are in the midst of a rough season, currently sitting at 1-15, (0-10 in conference play) and have nothing to lose coming into this game. They are led by sophomore guard, Blaize Sagna, who leads the team in points (15.7) and steals (1.3) per game.
As a team, the Golden Eagles’ offense has been shaky this season, averaging just 66.4 ppg and currently post a -15.5 scoring margin, allowing 81.9 ppg to opponents. For a team as beaten up as the Mavs, playing against a statistically subpar defense should allow for some of the newer players to gain some traction offensively. Another thing that the Mavs may try to exploit is the Golden Eagles’ troubles on the defensive glass. The Golden Eagles have allowed opponents to grab 14 or more offensive rebounds in nearly a third of their games, while allowing 8 or more in thirteen of their sixteen games.
“The last seven games have been a bit of a grind for us, and we have let some teams beat us when they shouldn’t have,” said Margenthaler. “That’s a hard thing to go through, but you have to learn from these things, and I think as a team, we have.”
The following day, Saturday, Jan. 14, the Bemidji State Beavers will be the Mavs’ next challenge. The Mavs have also had their way with the Beavers in the past, as from 1978-2011, the Mavs won 23 straight, good enough for the second longest winning streak against an opponent, just behind the aforementioned Golden Eagles.
However, that was over a decade ago, and there are now new players on both sides. This season’s Beaver team is 10-6 on the year (5-5 conference record), and have been playing good basketball as of late, winning 5 of their last 6. One player to watch out for is John Sutherland, who is averaging 19.1 ppg on 62% shooting from the field, along with grabbing 9.1 rebounds per game.
Aside from the amazing play out of Sutherland, the Beavers boast a trio of players who are shooting above 40% from behind the arc in Brandon Christlieb, RJ Smith, and Kone Mohamed, who also has 21 steals on the year. The Beavers will prove to be a challenge for the Mavs, and a great test for the players taking on new roles during Williams and Willingham’s absence.
“Moving forward, we still have the talent on our roster to win a lot of games and get to all of our goals we set at the beginning of the season,” said Margenthaler.
Write to Hayden Lee at Hayden.Lee@my.smsu.edu
Header Photo: MSU Men’s Basketball team looks to bounce back into the win column as they play back-to-back away games with their first game against Minnesota Crookston Friday, Jan. 13 and Bemidji State Saturday, Jan. 14. (Dylan Engel)