By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
— Having had some time to reflect on the Central Region men’s basketball championship game from Tuesday, which Winona State won 76-73 in overtime, a few thoughts have come to mind.
Wow! What a great game.
Winona State is a very good team. So is Minnesota State. The teams were about as evenly matched as possible coming into the game, and the results proved that point.
Winona State had a couple of banked 3-pointers at the end of shot clocks that some people call lucky. If you don’t take the shot, it can’t go in. You need a couple of breaks to win games like that, and Winona State made those breaks.
Minnesota State didn’t fully take advantage of the foul differential. The Mavericks were 26 of 36 at the free-throw line, while Winona State was 12 of 17. If Minnesota State makes a couple more free throws, they’re preparing to play at Louisville. The same could bee said about 3 of 14 shooting from 3-point range.
It seemed like Minnesota State was the better rebounding team, though the difference was only plus-1. However, the Mavericks’ 13 offensive rebounds only turned into 16 second-chance points.
At the end of regulation, the Mavericks had a pretty good possession that ended with a good defensive play by Winona State. A the end of overtime, searching for the tying 3, the Mavericks didn’t execute very well.
There are a lot of talented players returning to the team next season, though the lone senior Jarvis Williams, won’t be back. He was the go-to guy at the end of games, a tough matchup because his length, quickness and athleticism and the team’s best on-ball defender.
It’s not automatic that the Mavericks will be back in this position next year, though they will enter the season as a favorite in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, along with Augustana.
The final thought will be the crowd. It’s amazing what can happen when the Mankato community and Minnesota State students come together en masse to watch a sporting event. It happens a couple times each year at hockey games, and it happened Tuesday night at Bresnan Arena.
The atmosphere that can be created in the local arenas is so electric and fun that it boggles the mind why it doesn’t happen more often. Outside of the outcome, there couldn’t be anyone leaving that building Tuesday night saying they weren’t entertained by that basketball game.
Two very good teams, playing a one-possession game for most of 45 minutes ... if you didn’t enjoy that, it’s a wonder you were there in the first place.
Come next November, the thrill of Tuesday night will be forgotten, and attendance will slip back to its usual, sad low number. There needs to be someone around who can remind the fan base how much fun can be had at the arena, watching talented college players do their thing.
Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, check out his local sports blog at www.mankatofreepress.com or follow his Twitter feed @ChadCourrier.