Injuries starting to heal for Minnesota State

The Mavs played their third and fourth consecutive road games Friday and Saturday and were unable to come out victorious in either game. However, Friday saw star guard, Malik Willingham, make his return to the starting lineup, playing 23 minutes in the team’s 104-87 loss at Northern State. The following day, the Mavs kept it close against No. 22 Moorhead State, eventually falling to the Dragons 86-76.

After two tough road games Friday and Saturday and going 1-3 in their stretch of road games, the Mavs now hold a 13-7 record and are slowly falling behind in the NSIC conference standings.

NSU was on fire early in Friday night’s matchup, connecting on their first five threes and took an 18-5 lead three minutes into the game. The Mavs fought back with five straight points, but were unable to bring the game back within eight points for the rest of the game, as NSU held a 31-16 lead midway through the first period. 

The Mavs got back within nine points of NSU late in the half, but gave up a 14-4 Wolves’ run to make the halftime score 58-39. Kyreese Willingham’s 17 points led the Mavs in scoring at the break, while Tyrell Stuttley added nine points of his own. The Mavs shot just over 40% in the first half, while allowing the Wolves to shoot over 70% in their own right. 

The second half was mostly filler, as the Mavs were only able to cut the Wolves’ lead to 14 at 12:32, with a score of 70-56, but got no closer for the rest of the night. The final score of 104-87 marked another loss for Minnesota State, but with M. Willingham back in the lineup, things did not seem like they were all that bad. 

K. Willingham finished with 26 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block and 1 steal as he continued his breakout. Trevor Moore, who has quietly been very consistent for the Mavs this season, finished with 22 points, including 4 makes from beyond the arc. In his return, M. Willingham finished with 8 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists. 

After the loss, the Mavs had no choice but to pick themselves up and move on to face No. 22 ranked Dragons. The Mavs got out to a 14-8 lead by hitting their first four threes, including Moore going 3-3 from downtown. The lead changed six times before the game reached 10:00 left in the first, as the Mavs led 28-25. 

With the Mavs leading 38-30 and 6:27 left in the half, the Wolves were on upset watch. However, the Wolves flipped a switch and went on a 20-4 run to close out the first half up by eight, 50-42.

M. Willingham’s 16 points led the Mavs at half, and the three three-pointers by Moore were enough to place him second among the Mavs’ first half scorers with nine points.

The Mavs shot a slightly better 51.6% from the field, compared to the Dragons’ 50%, and a win for MSU, Mankato was not looking impossible.

Unfortunately, the first half of the second period was run by the Dragons as they built up a 15 point lead, 65-50, with just under 12 minutes to go. The resilient Mavs refused to give up, going on their own 9-2 run to cut the Dragon lead to just eight points at 67-59.

The Dragons held strong for the remainder of the game and were able to best the Mavs, 86-76.

M. Willingham led the team in scoring, putting up 25 points while also adding 5 rebounds and 5 assists on the night. Again, it was Moore with 22 points and 4 threes, but in this game he shot 7-10 from the field, 4-5 from three and 4-4 from the free throw line. An efficient game, despite the loss.

With M. Willingham back, the Mavs are now just waiting for Harrison Braudis and Brady Williams to return as they play out their final eight regular season games and head into the playoffs, hopefully with a fully healthy roster. 

Write to Hayden Lee at Hayden.Lee@my.smsu.edu

Header photo: Upon Malik Willingham’s return, MSU Men’s Basketball team loses 76-86 against #22 MSU Moorhead Saturday, Jan. 21. (Dylan Engel)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: