By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
The Minnesota State men’s basketball team scores more points at Bresnan Area, shoots a better percentage and takes better care of the basketball.
So why are the Mavericks 9-0 in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference road games and only 6-3 at home?
“As a staff, it’s something we can’t quite put our finger on,” coach Matt Margenthaler said. “I think it’s more of a focus things on the road that we don’t always have at home.”
Minnesota State (19-3, 15-3 in Northern Sun) faces its toughest and most important road trip of the regular season this weekend, playing at Upper Iowa (17-7, 13-5) tonight and Winona State (21-4, 15-3) on Saturday.
A sweep would just about clinch a conference championship for the Mavericks and could solidify the top seed for the Central Region tournament March 16-19. Two losses, and the Mavericks could fall quite a ways in the conference and region standings.
“I think our confidence is high, and we have had a great week of practice,” Margenthaler said. “We need to take that edge we have in practice and use it on the road to get two victories. We have to be very disciplined and focused.”
Minnesota State scores 1.5 points per game more at home, shooting 51.5 percent at Bresnan compared to 50.5 percent on the road. The Mavericks have committed almost four turnovers more on opponents’ courts.
The biggest advantage that Minnesota State has had in road games is rebounding. The Mavericks are plus-10.6 rebounds away from Bresnan Arena but are just plus-5.2 rebounding at home. The Mavericks are holding teams to 65.9 points away from home, about three points less than home game, and for whatever reason, Minnesota State is shooting 37.4 percent from 3-point range on the road and 34.3 percent at home.
“We’re a young, immature basketball team, and there’s no question we have some talent,” Margenthaler said. “We’re probably a year ahead of where we thought we’d be.”
The Mavericks lost 61-60 to Upper Iowa at home on Dec. 18, falling behind 20-2 before rallying to take a late lead, only to have the Peacocks score the wining basket at the buzzer. Minnesota State defeated Winona State 78-70 in their most impressive home victory the night before.
All five Minnesota State starters are averaging more than eight points per game, led by Jarvis Williams at 14.8. Zach Monaghan has 127 assists, just 16 short of cracking the top-10 single-season totals for the program.
Minnesota State women
The Mavericks (18-4, 14-4), ranked No. 25 this week, need two victories for the third 20-win season for the program since 1986. Minnesota State is second in the South Division, one game behind Concordia-St. Paul.
Junior center Ali Wilkinson needs 26 points to reach 1,000 for her career. She would be the 20th player in program history to reach that milestone. Wilkinson and Upper Iowa’s Whitney Kieffer are separated by 0.1 points per game for the conference scoring lead.
Sophomore forward Jamie Bresnahan remains day-to-day with a knee injury. She’s missed the last three games, with senior Steffaney Thomas filling in as the starter at forward.
Minnesota State ranks 12th in Division II for scoring at 76.0 points per game. The Mavericks have made 140 of the last 176 free throws, which is 79.5 percent.
The women’s team (15-8, 14-7) has clinched a conference tournament berth as either the fifth or sixth seed, and will play a road game to open the playoffs. Abby Rothenbuehler, the team’s scoring leader at 12.4 points per game, has 41 blocked shots in 24 games. Julia Dysthe is shooting 89.6 percent from the free-throw line
The men’s team (14-10, 11-8) needs a victory Saturday at Concordia or a loss by Bethel or St. John’s to clinch an MIAC tournament berth. Jim Hill ranks sixth in the MIAC in scoring, averaging 15.8 points, one spot ahead of teammate Ben Biewen at 14,4 points. Jordan Dick scored a career-high 13 points in Wednesday’s victory.
The men’s team (10-12, 8-4) needs one victory to secure a berth in the UMAC tournament. The Vikings play at Minnesota Morris tonight and at Crown on Saturday to wrap up the regular season.
The women’s team (7-16, 5-7) needs two victories this week and some help to gain a berth in the conference tournament.