By Chad Courrier
---- — 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.”
Ross, who is from Indianapolis, played two seasons at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa, averaging 14.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists in his final season. He then went to Middle Tennessee State, where he played only one game this season before transferring to Minnesota State.
Women need sweep
For the last two weeks, the Mavericks (11-5, 8-4) split weekend series, falling back into a second-place tie with Concordia-St. Paul, which the Mavericks have swept.
With Winona State (8-8, 4-8) and Upper Iowa (5-11, 4-8), the Mavericks could use a sweep.
“We’re just trying to get back to competing in every practice and every game,” coach Emilee Thiesse said. “We need to string two good games together.”
Fouls have been a problem for the Mavericks, especially in the last four games, two of which have been losses. The Mavericks have been called for 375 fouls in 16 games, an average of more than 23 per game, with three games of 30 or more. That’s 51 fouls more than opponents, allowing other teams to outscore the Mavericks by 70 points at the free-throw line.
“We play a physical style, but with the new rules, we haven’t made the adjustment,” Thiesse said. “That’s on us as coaches. We need to be the aggressor and maybe we’ll get the calls.”
The Gusties (11-5, 8-3 in MIAC) have won three of the last four games and travel to Concordia on Saturday.
Sophomore center Brody Ziegler has taken over the team lead in scoring at 12.2 points per game, and he’s shooting a team-best 60.6 percent from the field. He also leads the team with 4.9 rebounds per game and 15 blocked shots. Freshman center Peter Kruize is averaging 12 points over the last seven games, raising his average to 8.9 points. He’s shooting 59.6 percent from the field.
Gustavus (8-7, 5-7) is riding a two-game winning streak heading into Saturday’s game at Concordia, which is a half-game out of the MIAC lead.
Sophomore center Karina Schroeder has been on a roll in the last five games, averaging 19.4 points and 10.6 rebounds, with double-doubles in the last two games. For the season, she’s averaging 14.3 points and 9.2 rebounds, shooting 52.7 percent from the field. Julia Dysthe is averaging 15.3 points and shooting 84.5 percent at the free-throw line.
The Vikings are on the road this weekend, playing at Northland College tonight and St. Scholastica on Saturday.
Jacob Wensmann leads Bethany in several categories, averaging 17.5 points and 7.6 rebounds and making 11 blocked shots. Nick Sanborn is shooting 53.0 percent from the field, averaging 6.7 points. Luke Roddy is tops on the team with 56 assists and 16 steals.
The Vikings (4-10, 1-2) play road games at Northland and St. Scholastica this weekend. Bethany is 2-6 in road games.
Kasslin Swenson is now averaging a double-double with 14.3 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. She has scored 10 or more points in 13 of 14 games, with nine games of 10 or more rebounds. Jade Pelzl is averaging 15.3 points with 41 3-pointers.