In the midst of what seems like 75 feet of snow coming down in Mankato, the Mavericks men’s basketball team traveled to Duluth Tuesday afternoon for the first round of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Tournament. Only one team can end their season with a win, and unfortunately for the Mavs, they weren’t that team this season.
“We just needed to find a way to connect, we’ve been through a lot of phases this year,” said Mavs guard Malik Willingham.
The University of Minnesota, Duluth Bulldogs defended their home court, and were able to down the Mavs, 88-68. Minnesota State ends their season with a 17-12 record, while UMD advances to the second round of the NSIC Tournament to take on Upper Iowa.
In their final game of the 2022-23 season, the Mavs put points on the board quickly, but fell behind by four points in the first four minutes, 12-8. After securing that lead, the Bulldogs built on it, going up 20-10 with 13 minutes left to play in the first half.
Six minutes later and the Mavs were climbing back into this one, cutting the Bulldog lead to three points on a Trevor Moore layup. Moore accounted for 16 of the Mavs first 23 points, while shooting 4-of-5 from downtown in the first 12 and a half minutes of play.
However, over the final six minutes of the half, the Bulldogs were able to piece together a 16-7 run to put them up by double digits, heading into the locker room, 44-33.
Moore led the Mavs in scoring in the first half with 16 points, while the Mavs shot 41.9 percent. 15 points from the Bulldogs’ Drew Blair was a big reason they had the lead.
“We battled, we did everything our game plan told us to do, but they just went out and did it, so we just had to tip our caps to them,” said Malik Willingham. “They have a great team over there, and playing on the road in the playoffs gets tough.
A response was needed from MSU to begin the half.Kyreese Willingham’s 11 points led a 15-8 Mavs run in the first five minutes, cutting the Bulldog lead to four points, 52-48.
The Bulldogs responded by quickly rebuilding their double-digit lead at 62-51 with just over 12 minutes remaining in the game.
These final 12 minutes were also the final minutes of the Mavs’ season, as they were unable to get the game back within their reach. The Bulldogs took control of the game, going up by as many as 25 points before reaching the final score of 88-68.
Malik Willingham tallied 18 points on the day, leading the team, while also pulling down eight rebounds. Kyreese Willingham scored 17 points and Moore added 16 points in the loss, as well.
At the end of the season, every team has something to reflect on, and that is no different for the 2022-23 Mavs. Their rollercoaster of a season came to a screeching halt Tuesday afternoon, but the good thing about a rollercoaster is that it can get right back on track the next time around.
“At the end of the day, you just have to be thankful, because not everyone gets an opportunity to play basketball at the level we play at,” said Malik Willingham.
Write to Hayden Lee at Hayden.Lee@my.smsu.edu
Header photo: MSU Men’s Basketball team ends their season after being defeated 88-68 against Minnesota Duluth Tuesday, Feb. 21 in the first round of the NSIC Tournament. (Dylan Engel)