The Mavs have two more games to prove themselves worthy of a home playoff game. Friday and Saturday unfortunately brought about another weekend split when they needed to bring home two wins. The NSIC South Division is still close after the weekend matchups, but time is running out after barely escaping Wayne State and losing big to Augustana.
It came down to the final seconds, but a clutch basket from Kyreese Willingham with three seconds left was enough to take care of the Wildcats. The next day, they would not be so lucky. Saturday, the Mavs looked like a completely different team, losing control just before halftime and spiraling for the remainder of the game, until they eventually fell to the Vikings.
At this point in time, the Mavs are within reach of third place in the South Division, but they need some help. They now sit at 16-10 with a 10-10 conference record, and will be waiting on the results from Upper Iowa and Southwest Minnesota State to find out where they stand.
Friday’s nailbiter began as early as tip-off. The Mavs and Wildcats seemed like they were under a spell that did not let them run away with this game, as neither team led by more than six points through the first half, but the Mavs remained in control.
The Wildcats were anything but wild, as they were able to stay composed and claw their way back into the game to take their first lead with 6:40 remaining in the game, 22-20. After the Mavs retook the lead, they were outscored 10-5 on their way into the locker room down 2, 32-30.
At the half, Trevor Moore and Tyrell Stuttley led the Mavs in scoring, both with seven, and Kyreese Willingham was able to bring down eight rebounds. The Mavs shot 40.7% from the field in the first half, and oddly enough the Wildcats also shot 40.7%, a testament to how evenly matched the teams were.
The Wildcats hoarded the lead in the second half, and it took until 11:43 before Malik Willingham was able to give the Mavs their first lead of the half, 46-45. As the struggle continued, the lead changed three more times before the Wildcats took control again.
In crunch time, Malik and Kyreese Willingham came up huge. With a minute left, Malik Willingham hit his fifth three to cut the Wildcat lead to one. After stopping the Wildcats on the other end, Kyreese Willingham took the game into his own hands, outdoing the Wildcat defender and connecting on a jumper that was the game-winner.
Malik Willingham led the Mavs in scoring, and also notched a double-double with 17 points and 10 boards. Moore and Kyreese Willingham also scored 15 points apiece, but Kyreese Willingham was also able to grab 11 rebounds.
Starting a win streak and looking to build off of it, the Mavs walked into Viking country as big steppers, but were tripped up in the end. After getting out to an early 11-10 lead, the Mavs fell apart. The Vikings were able to build a 44-22 lead heading into the half, and the lead was too much to come back from.
Malik and Kyreese Willingham each had six points and three rebounds at half, leading the team. As a team, the Mavs shot 28.6% from the field, compared to the Vikings’ 54.8%.
The second half saw the Vikings keep a stranglehold on the lead, as it never dropped to under 20 points until the final buzzer sounded, marking a 87-59 loss for the Mavs.
In a tough game for the Mavs, Moore led them in scoring, with 13 points. Kyreese Willingham totaled 12 points and six rebounds.
Write to Hayden Lee at Hayden.Lee@my.smsu.edu
Header photo: MSU Men’s Basketball split the weekend with a 67-66 win against Wayne State Friday, Feb. 10 and a 87-59 loss to Augustana Saturday, Feb. 11. (Dylan Engel)