Playoffs are here and the Mavs have officially played their way into at least one more game before their season comes to an end. The regular season came to an end with yet another split, but luckily they did just enough to buy some more time.
Both games came down to the wire, but the Mavs were able to squeeze out a 67-65 home win Thursday before losing on the road in Iowa Saturday night, 86-84. In the process of Saturday’s loss, junior Malik Willingham was able to score his 1,000th career point, becoming the 42nd Maverick to achieve this feat.
The Mavs end the 2022-23 regular season with a record of 17-11 and a conference record of 11-11. This record booked them a ticket to Duluth Tuesday, as they will take on the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs at 3 p.m.
Looking back, every team needed to bring their A-game heading into the final two games of the season, but Winona State came up just short. In the first half, the game was defined by runs. A 13-2 Mavs run, fueled by seven Malik Willingham points, was able to put them up 18-10 midway through the first half.
This was enough to help the Mavs keep hold of the lead until halftime, but the Warriors made sure that the Mavs didn’t get comfortable, cutting their lead to two points with 40 seconds left in the half. A Trevor Moore three-pointer gave the Mavs a five point lead heading into the locker room, 32-27.
At the half, Malik Willingham had 14 points and Moore added 9 more, as the two carried the load offensively. The Mavs shot 37.5% in the first half, trailing the Warriors by just 2.5% despite having the lead.
In the second half, the Warriors finally broke through and took the lead after eight minutes of play, 37-36. For the next five minutes, the teams were locked in, as the lead changed three different times before the Mavs were able to claim a 52-50 lead heading into the final five minutes of play.
With 1:16 left to play, the Warriors were able to tie the game at 61, but the Mavs pulled through in their final home game of the year, outscoring the Warriors 6-4 as the game faded away to clinch a 67-65 win.
Malik Willingham scored 29 points in the win, Moore followed behind with 15, Kyreese Willingham had 10 and Harrison Braudis contributed eight points.
After a Friday with no game, the Mavs took the court in Fayette, Iowa to take on their final regular season opponent, the Upper Iowa Peacocks. They came out on fire.
Taking a 12-0 lead in the first three minutes, everything was going right for the Mavs, and Malik Willingham was able to notch six points to score his 1,000th point. Midway through the first half, the Mavs were able to keep hold of a double-digit lead, 22-9.
Six minutes later, the Mavs still held a 38-30 lead over the Peacocks, but the Peacocks would go on a 12-8 run to close out the half, making the Mavericks sweat a little bit more as they headed into their final halftime of the regular season.
Braudis was on a mission in the first half, scoring 19 points on 8/10 shooting to lead the Mavs in first half scoring, as Malik Willingham dropped in eight points of his own. The Mavs also shot an eye-opening 51.4% as a team in the first half.
Neither team led by more than eight points down the stretch of this game as the teams inched closer to the playoffs. With just under 14 minutes left in the game, the teams were locked at 56. However, in the next four minutes, the Peacocks stole eight straight points to give them the lead midway through the half.
Heading into crunchtime, the Peacocks held a five-point lead, 79-74 with just under five minutes left to play. After a few minutes of playing catch-up, Malik Willingham finally tied the game at 84 with 1:25 to go.
The Mavs had two chances to take the lead, but their shots didn’t fall. The Warriors capitalized, putting them up 86-84 in what would be the final score.
In an offensive battle, three Mavs came up with 20 points, including Harrison Braudis with 21, and Moore and Malik Willingham with 20 points each.
After a 17-11 regular season, the Mavs are faced with the 20-8 UMD Bulldogs, but forget about records, it’s a new season.
Write to Hayden Lee at Hayden.Lee@my.smsu.edu
Header photo: MSU Men’s Basketball team falls just shy of the win with a 86-84 loss against Upper Iowa Saturday, Feb. 18. (Dylan Engel)