By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — For most of the season, Minnesota State had the advantage in depth, with several players able to step up and contribute to victories.
But on Sunday, in the semifinals of the Central Region men’s basketball tournament, the Mavericks’ bench was outscored by St. Cloud State’s reserves 25-9.
“Wow, it’s hard to believe the season’s over,” Minnesota State coach Matt Margenthaler said. “I told the players (last week) that there is two types of pain. There’s pain from working at practice and preparing, and that pain is short-lived. The other pain is pain of regret, if you don’t put forth the effort, and that pain lasts the rest of your life. I don’t think our guys feel that kind of pain right now.”
St. Cloud State advanced to the region championship game with an 83-71 victory Sunday, ending the season for the top-seeded Mavericks. The Huskies never trailed in the second half and finished the game with a 12-3 run.
“They hit the shots when they needed to,” senior guard Jesse Clark said. “Every time we got on a run, they knocked down the shots and stepped up. They made all the little plays and all the big plays down the stretch.”
The first half was tight, with the Mavericks going up 10-4, but the Huskies rallied to tie at the eight-minute mark. St. Cloud State then reeled off 10 straight points, with 3-pointers by Josh Ortmann and Brett Putz, and maintained the lead the rest of the half.
The Mavericks shot 39.3 percent and were out-rebounded by nine as the Huskies, who had 15 offensive boards, led 37-31 at the break.
“It was a good battle in there,” senior center Travis Nelson said. “(Matt) Schneck is a good player, and we went at each other all game.”
The Mavericks drew even at 43 on Joe Drapcho’s driving basket five minutes into the second half, but the Huskies, taking advantage of spotty free-throw shooting by the Mavericks, put together an 11-1 run to regain control.
“Their bench was outstanding,” Margenthaler said. “Putz was huge all night, and (Nate) Phillips played well. This was the third game against St. Cloud where they crushed us on the boards.”
Ortmann hit three more 3-pointers as the Huskies stayed up, and a 10-point run in the final three minutes put the game out of reach.
Schneck ended up with 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Ortmann scored 16 points. Taylor Witt had 15 points, making 9 of 11 free throws, and Putz scored 13. The Huskies had a 50-32 advantage in points in the paint, shot 57.7 percent in the second half and outrebounded the Mavericks by nine.
“This was the way a national tournament game is supposed to be played,” Huskies coach Kevin Schlagel said. “It was very intense. Our bench really stepped up when we had some foul trouble in the first half and gave us a lift, and we were able to build on that in the second half.”
Drapcho and Jermain Davis each scored 14 points for the Mavericks (25-5), who were only 2 of 15 on 3-pointers and 15 of 24 at the free-throw line. Jefferson Mason had 12 points and eight rebounds, Clark scored 12 points, and Nelson added 10 points.
“There’s no excuses,” Margenthaler said. “These guys had a phenomenal year, and I’m very proud of these young men. They have no reason to hang their heads.”
St. Cloud State (27-5), which won the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament title, looks for its sixth straight victory in the region championship game at 7 p.m. Tuesday against Augustana.
ST. CLOUD STATE 83
Rothstein 0-2 0-0 0, Bernstetter 1-7 4-6 6, Schneck 8-11 5-12 21, Witt 3-8 9-11 15, Ortmann 6-12 0-0 16, Putz 5-10 0-0 13, Jensen 1-1 0-0 2, Phillips 3-5 0-0 6, Fisher 0-2 0-0 0, Bergstraser 2-3 0-1 4. Totals: 29-61 17-29 83.
MINNESOTA STATE 71
Nelson 3-8 4-4 10, Mason 5-9 2-4 12, Clark 5-13 2-2 12, Davis 7-14 0-2 14, Drapcho 4-8 4-4 14, Hill 0-3 1-2 1, Hodges 0-1 1-4 1, Morrow 1-2 1-2 3, Grundman 0-0 0-0 0, Greeley 2-3 0-0 4. Totals: 27-61 15-24 71.
Halftime: St. Cloud State 37, Minnesota State 31. 3-point shooting: St. Cloud State 7-14 (Rothstein 0-1, Bergstraser 0-1, Witt 0-1, Ortmann 4-5, Putz 3-6), Minnesota State 2-15 (Clark 0-3, Davis 0-3, Drapcho 2-4, Hill 0-3, Hodges 0-1, Morrow 0-1). Rebounds: St. Cloud State 48 (Schneck 14), Minnesota State 39 (Mason 8). Assists: St. Cloud State 12 (Witt 3), Minnesota State 9 (Clark 4). Steals: St. Cloud State 8 (Phillips 4), Minnesota State 2 (Davis, Drapcho). Turnovers: St. Cloud State 10, Minnesota State 11. Total fouls: St. Cloud State 19, Minnesota State 25. Fouled out: none.