Maybe someday, a men’s basketball game between Minnesota State and Winona State won’t be important.
Maybe the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference title won’t be on the line. Or region rankings. Or pride.
Well, not this week.
The Mavericks (16-3, 10-2 in Northern Sun) plays at Winona State (15-4, 10-2) at 8 p.m. today, with the winner taking control of the Northern Sun’s South Division lead. The Warriors won 78-75 at Bresnan Arena on Dec. 7, meaning Winona State could pick up an important postseason tiebreaker with a series sweep and nine games left in the regular season.
“These are the games that are fun,” Minnesota State coach Matt Margenthaler said. “Two great programs going against each other ... that’s why our guys come here, to play in games like this.”
After the Mavericks lost at Minnesota State-Moorhead on Jan. 11, Winona State gained a two-game advantage in the conference race and it looked like this game wouldn’t be as important. But then Winona State lost games last weekend at Southwest Minnesota State and Sioux Falls to fall back into a tie with Minnesota State.
“I think our guys play well in adverse conditions,” Margenthaler said. “They feed off the energy when the crowd is against them.
“I think our guys are focused and ready to go. They’re ready to compete and have fun.”
The Mavericks play at Upper Iowa (8-10, 6-6) on Saturday.
Add one more player who can sit on the Minnesota State bench and not play until next season. Ronald Ross, a 6-foot-4 guard, has transferred to Minnesota State and will have one season of eligibility remaining.
“We needed to add a big wing for next year,” Margenthaler said. “Ronald is a guy who can shoot the ball, especially in the mid-range. He has a Division I body, and he played at a high level of junior college.”