It’s simple, a Mavs win Thursday guarantees them a spot in the NSIC Tournament.
A Thursday night home matchup against Winona State carries heavy playoff implications for a Mavs team that has cooled off significantly since their 9-0 start. Luckily, the Mavs will get a day of rest before they hit the road to take on Upper Iowa Saturday night.
“It’s do or die,” said Mavs’ coach Matthew Margenthaler. “We are basically approaching this week like it’s playoffs.”
Not a bad idea, as just like the playoffs, the Mavs could be knocked out of contention if they lose both games this weekend. However, the Mavs should be relieved to have Friday as a rest day, as they have not put together a 2-0 weekend since early December.
“We’ve just been very inconsistent, and we’ve been that way since Christmas, and it really just comes down to our shooting,” said Margenthaler.
The Mavs are 2-2 in their last four, and when they shoot well, they win, as they did against Sioux Falls and Wayne State. They won while shooting above 42% from the field and beyond the arc in both games. In their two losses against SMSU and Augustana, they shot 33% from the field and under 25% from three.
“We have guys who have proven they can make shots, but we just have to take more high quality shots,” said Margenthaler.
In their matchup earlier in the season, the Mavs shot 44% from the field and 44% from three on their way to a 74-71 win on the road. This time, the Mavs will have the home crowd behind them as they take the court at Taylor Center.
The Warriors come into Thursday’s matchup 14-11 and in seventh place in the South Division. They are led by leading scorer Connor Dillon, who averages 18.3 points per game, but has a weakness from beyond the arc, where he is shooting 29% on the year. Connor Drew and Luke Martens are good second and third options offensively, both averaging close to 12 ppg. Dillon and Martens combined for 40 points when the teams met before.
“We need to win these games to stay alive,” said Margenthaler. “But we can’t play tight, we just need to get on a roll as we head into the conference tournament.”
After Friday’s rest day, the Mavs will conclude their regular season in Iowa as they take on the Upper Iowa Peacocks. Earlier in the season, the Mavs took care of business 97-68 at home. The Mavs’ defensive pressure led the way, and the Peacocks saw their three-point percentage dip into single digits in the loss.
The Peacocks sit at 14-12 on the season and are coming off of a win over Sioux Falls where Jake Hilmer dropped 42 points. Hilmer is averaging 22 points per game on the year, followed by Lucas Duax who is up to 17.1 points per game.
Inconsistencies and injuries have plagued the Mavs since their 9-0 start, but as soon as Saturday’s game concludes, a new season begins.
Write to Hayden Lee at hayden.Lee@my.smsu.edu
Header photo: The MSU Men’s Basketball team plays their final home game of the regular season against Winona State today, Feb. 16 at 5:30 p.m. (Dylan Engel)