In what would be the third-largest crowd in Taylor Center history, the No. 5 Minnesota State men’s basketball team bested the No. 3 MSU Moorhead Dragons Saturday night.
With 4,155 fans in attendance, Saturday’s crowd made up the fourth-highest attendance in all of Division II basketball this season.
“The crowd was amazing tonight. This is what we work hard for, this is what we play for. We have a great facility and a great team for our fans to come out and watch us,” said Malik Willingham in a press conference posted to the Maverick Athletics website. “We just want to put on a show for them.”
And that is exactly what they did. On Saturday the Mavs and Dragons gave this record-setting crowd a game to remember.
To begin Saturday’s battle of Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference heavyweights, the score remained low, as the Dragons held a six-point lead at 16-10. The Mavericks chipped away at this lead, led by Justin Eagins, who scored a game-high 18 points in the first half.
The Mavericks eventually grabbed the lead with just under four minutes left in the first half, but the Dragons quickly took it back until the final seconds of the opening stanza. However, Eagins seemed determined to keep the Mavericks in this game, as he connected on his fourth three-pointer of the night as time expired to send the teams into the locker room tied at 33.
Eagins’ big shot gave the Mavericks the jolt of energy they seemed to need, and they came out of the locker room on fire. Led by seven points each from Kyreese Willingham and Dylan Peeters, the Mavs went on a 24-8 run, taking a 16-point, 57-41 lead with just over 11 minutes to go in the game.
With the game in the balance, the Dragons came through with a 24-7 run that propelled them back into the lead with 3:52 remaining. In the next two and a half minutes, the lead would change hands six times before Malik Willingham had enough and knocked down his first three-pointer of the night to put the Mavs up one with one minute remaining.
After some end-of-game antics, Elijah Hazekamp secured the rebound that eventually gave the Mavs the upper hand in the foul game and sent the Dragons home winless on the weekend.
Eagins led the team in scoring with 23, including going 7-of-8 from downtown, while Malik Willingham scored all 21 of his points in the second half.
“I came out right away with two fouls, but I had players behind me the whole time telling me not to worry about the first half,” Malik Willingham said. “They told me not to worry about the first half because they needed me in the second half.”
Additionally, the Mavericks were able to take down the St. Cloud State Huskies Friday night by a score of 88-67. With two wins on the weekend, the Mavs now are 19-1 and in sole possession of first place in the NSIC, and could be back on top of the Division II polls when their updated rankings drop later this week.
Looking forward, the Mavericks will hit the road to take on Minnesota-Duluth on Tuesday and Southwest Minnesota State and Sioux Falls in an action-packed week for Maverick basketball.
Header Photo: It came down to the wire Saturday evening in front of the third-largest crowd in Taylor Center history, but 4,155 fans witnessed #5 Minnesota State come away with the 81-78 win over #3 MSU Moorhead. (Courtesy Maverick Athletics)
Write to Hayden Lee at email@example.com