This year’s Minnesota State men’s basketball season has been a rollercoaster in many ways.
After beginning the season 9-0, which included a 41-point performance from junior Malik Willingham in the team’s first home game, the Mavs were ranked as high as ninth in the NABC poll. As of late, injuries have been the story for the Mavs, which has forced some players into new and expanded roles.
One player who has stepped up and thrived in his new role is guard Kyreese Willingham. Willingham, in six games with players like his brother, Malik Willingham, and sophomores Brady Williams and Harrison Braudis missing time, has filled in nicely, averaging 18.2 points in the last few weeks.
“I just feel like I have to be aggressive, know my role and who I am,” said Willingham. “With some guys being out, someone has to step up and do more than they are usually asked to.”
The sophomore Kyreese Willingham has shown flashes of his potential all season, and after a few games spent adjusting to his new role, he put together a three-game stretch where he averaged 26 points and 5 rebounds on 50% from the field and just over 44% on his three pointers.
“Being a starter for the first time this year, I have been just trying to figure out what my role is, and I feel like I have come a long way since the beginning of the year,” said Willingham.
Kyreese Willingham has been crucial in keeping the Mavs afloat in the midst of all of the injuries, but he named others such as freshmen Chase Bartlett and Dawson Rudolph as players who have also embraced their new roles on the team.
“I was really happy to see those guys step up,” said Rudolph. We’ve got a lot of guys on this team who can play.”
Luckily for the Mavs, their injuries seem to be healing, with Malik Willingham playing in their last two games, and they hope to get Harrison Braudis back soon as well.
In the meantime, there are still games to be played, and the Mavs have a big weekend ahead of them, with two home matchups against the University of Mary Friday and Minot State Saturday.
The Marauders enter the Taylor Center with a 9-9 record, and are 2-4 in their last six games. They are led by Kam Warrens, who is averaging 13.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Zyon Smith is second on the team in scoring, averaging 11.1 points to go along with 2.8 rebounds. The Mavs lost on the road to the Marauders a season ago, but are winners of four of their last five matchups.
“This is a big weekend for us, especially losing the last couple of weekends, we need to go out and get two against the North Division,” said Willingham.
Following their matchup with the Marauders, Willingham and the Mavs are set to take on Minot State Saturday afternoon. The Mavs hold an 8-2 series advantage all time over the Beavers, and will be looking for revenge after losing on the road last season.
The Beavers are also currently 9-9 on the year and 2-4 in their last six. They do boast a better offense than the Marauders, which is led by Khari Broadway, who leads the Beavers with 13.4 points per game and is also a candidate for best name in the NSIC. Others such as Jaxon Gunville and Cam’ron Dunfee are also averaging double figures in points on the season as well.
In order to keep their season alive and make things interesting, the Mavs need to get back into the win column this weekend. If they do so, things will be looking up, especially if their injuries heal in time for the playoffs.
“We want to go out on top this year, and with the season ending soon, it’s time to step it up,” said Willingham.
Header Photo: MSU Men’s Basketball team is back at the Taylor Center for back to back games against University of Mary Friday, Jan. 27 at 5:30 p.m. and Minot State Saturday, Jan. 28 at 3:30 p.m. (Dylan Long/The Reporter)
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