#5 Mavericks continue to cement themselves as top dogs

As the 2023-24 season continues to wind down, the games become more meaningful. Especially when you only play one game in a weekend, like the Minnesota State men’s basketball team did last weekend. 

It came down to the final seconds, but the Mavericks were able to defeat the Northern State Wolves Saturday night on the road. Malik Willingham stepped up and hit the huge game-winning shot to give the Mavs the 85-83 win. 

With the win, the Mavs move now to 24-2 on the year, (18-2 in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference play) and have now claimed at least a share of the NSIC regular season championship. This win also helped them claim a first round bye in the upcoming NSIC Tournament.

The game began with several lead changes as the teams fought to take control of the game. It would be a tie game at 11 with 15 minutes to go in the first half, but from there, NSU would mount a 21-14 run that put them up 32-25 with just over eight minutes remaining in the half. The resilient Mavs would force the lead to change hands once again as they outscored the Wolves 26-16 in the final eight minutes to take the lead at halftime, 51-48. It would be the bigs that fueled this run, as Brady Williams scored eight points in the final eight minutes, while Dylan Peeters added seven of his own. 

At the half, it was Malik Willingham who led the team in scoring with 11 points, followed by Elijah Hazekamp, who had 10. However, the true story of the first half was the dominance of NSU’s Josh Dilling, who scored 25 points and recorded six assists. As NSU also shot over 60% in the first half, the Mavs had work to do to slow down the Wolves’ offense.

The beginning of the second half was similar to the opening of the game. There were many lead changes as the Wolves took a three point lead at 66-63 with 13:28 remaining. Over the next three minutes, the Mavs put together an 11-0 run that put them up 74-66 with ten minutes left to go. 

The next eight minutes would see less offense and more defense, as the Mavs entered the final two minutes of play still up eight. However, the reigning NSIC champions would not make it easy on the Mavs. They went on an 8-0 run in the next minute and a half, tying the score at 83 with 27 seconds left to play. On the last full possession of the game, Malik Willingham hit the game-winning shot with 3.5 seconds left, and Kyreese Willingham was able to steal the inbounds pass to seal another win for the Mavericks. 

Malik Willingham’s night was highlighted by his game-winner, but he also led the Mavs in scoring with 19 points, followed by Hazekamp’s 15, Dylan Peeters’ 13-point and13-rebound double-double and Justin Eagins’ 11 points. NSU’s Josh Dilling ended the night with a game-high 37 points and added 6 assists in the loss for the Wolves.

“Good victory for our program tonight,” head coach Matt Margenthaler said in a press release posted to the Maverick Athletics website. “We knew to win a conference championship we had to go through last year’s conference champs. We’re looking forward to being home next weekend to finish the deal.”

The final two opponents on the Mavs’ regular season schedule are Minnesota Crookston and Bemidji State, whom the Mavs will take on at home this weekend. Minnesota Crookston will be in the Taylor Center Friday night at 7:30 p.m. and the Beavers will take on the Mavs at 5:30 p.m. Saturday night.

Header Photo: The Mavericks have now claimed at least a share of the NSIC regular season championship. (Dylan Long/The Reporter)

Write to Hayden Lee at

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