By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
With a win Saturday, the Minnesota State men's basketball team could have clinched a share of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference championship and secured the No. 1 seed in the upcoming league tournament.
But while those goals may still be accomplished during next weekend's final two games of the regular season, the Mavericks have given life to Winona State.
“We're going to take this loss the best possible way,” junior Jimmy Whitehead said. “we lost to a good team. We've got two more games left, and we need to put everything into those games.”
Winona State played a strong second half, shooting 59.1 percent, to defeat Minnesota State 75-64 in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference game Saturday. It's the first road loss this season for MSU, which falls back into a tie for the South Division lead.
“We had an opportunity to put Winona out of the race and clinch a conference championship, so there's some regrets,” coach Matt Margenthaler said. “But we still control our own destiny.”
The first half was very physical, and only four fouls had been called through the first 16 minutes. The marquee matchup of centers played out, with Minnesota State's Assem Marei scoring 12 points and Winona State's Clayton Vette getting eight.
But the Warriors got more contributions from the other players and led 30-26 at halftime. In the second half, the Warriors gradually pulled away as Minnesota State struggled with its halfcourt offense.
The lead grew to 40-29 in the first two minutes and 61-43 at the six-minute mark. The Mavericks cut the lead to 10 a couple times in the final two minutes.
“We had too many stretches where we went five possessions without scoring,” Margenthaler said. “You can't do that against a good team. We started standing around, and we're not shooting the ball very well from the perimeter.”
Gage Wooten led Minnesota State with 13 points, one more than Whitehead and Marei. Minnesota State shot 43.1 percent form the field but made only 1 of 7 from 3-point range. In Friday's win at Upper Iowa, Minnesota State was 1 of 11 from the arc.
“When this team hits adversity, sometimes we start pointing fingers and doing things that are uncharacteristic,” Whitehead said. “We have a lot of new guys, and we have to figure out a way to stay together.”
Winona State was led by Vette's 19 points, though three others chipped in at least 12 points. The Warriors did a better job of getting into the lane in the second half.
Minnesota State (20-4, 16-4 in Northern Sun) wraps up the regular season with home games Friday against Sioux Falls and Saturday against Southwest Minnesota State.
“We should feel bad about this loss, and it should hurt,” Margenthaler said. “But we need to stay together because if we win two more games, we're the champions.”
MINNESOTA STATE 64
Williams 2-5 5-8 9, Monaghan 1-7 0-0 2, Wooten 6-10 0-0 13, O'Brien 2-7 2-2 6, Marei 5-10 2-2 12, Brown 3-5 2-2 8, Moten 1-3 0-0 2, Whitehead 5-8 2-2 12, Romashko 0-3 0-0 0. Totals: 2558 13-16 75.
WINONA STATE 75
Taylor 1-2 0-0 2, Johnson 5-15 1-2 12, Humphrey 4-6 5-8 16, Cameron 4-9 5-8 15, Vette 8-13 3-4 19, Masberg 0-0 1-2 1, Culver 1-3 3-6 6, Blacklock 2-2 0-0 4, O'Laughlin 0-0 0-0 0, Fischer 0-2 0-1 0. Totals: 25-52 18-31 75.
Halftime: Winona State 30, Minnesota State 26. 3-point shooting: Minnesota State 1-7 (Monaghan 0-3, Wooten 1-2, Moten 0-1, Whitehead 0-1), Winona State 7-15 (Taylor 0-1, Johnson 1-3, Humphrey 3-4, Cameron 2-2, Vette 0-1, Culver 1-2, Fischer 0-2). Rebounds: Minnesota State 36 (Wooten 8), Winona State 33 (Johnson, Cameron 6). Assists: Minnesota State 12 (Monaghan 6), Winona State 14 (Cameron 4). Steals: Minnesota State 5 (Monaghan 2), Winona State 6 (Johnson, Vette 2).Turnovers: Minnesota State 14, Winona State 10. Total fouls: Minnesota State 22, Winona State 15. Technical fouls: Minneosta State (Williams),Winona State (Johnson). Fouled out: Minnesota State (Brown).