By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
From 2004 through 2011, the Minnesota State men’s basketball team had a string of seven straight 20-win seasons, but that streak was snapped last year.
With two victories this weekend at Bresnan Arena, the Mavericks will again have reached that standard.
“It’s very important,” Mavericks coach Matt Margenthaler said. “It’s always a goal. But this year, just because you win 20 games, that doesn’t guarantee a spot in the national tournament. We’re going to have to keep winning.”
Minnesota State (18-2, 14-2 in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference) hosts Bemidji State (11-9, 9-7) at 8 p.m. today and Minnesota Crookston (3-17, 0-16) at 6 p.m. Saturday at Bresnan Arena.
The Mavericks are averaging 76.6 points in conference games, which ranks second, but there are no Minnesota State players in the top 10 in scoring. Jarvis Williams ranks 11th at 15.4 points per game, Assem Marei ranks 14th at 13.9 points, and Zach Monaghan ranks 19th at 13.0 points.
Monaghan, a sophomore transfer from South Dakota State, also leads the Northern Sun with 5.38 assists and 2.38 steals per game.
“He hasn’t played point guard as much as he has this season so he continues to grow,” Margenthaler said. “We give him a lot of leeway because he sees the floor so well, and he does a good job of putting his teammates in position to succeed.”
In the last nine seasons, the Mavericks have been ranked in the top 25 of the national polls 91 times. The team has been ranked in the top 10 50 times, in the top 5 17 times and once at No. 1.
Minnesota State women
The Mavericks (16-4, 12-4) remain one game behind Concordia-St. Paul in the South Division, tied with Augustana. Minnesota State, which has won five straight games, is 9-0 at home, with four regular-season games remaining at Bresnan Arena.
“I’m excited that we’re a team that has shown it can win close games,” coach Emilee Thiesse said. “We’d like it if we didn’t put ourselves in that position so often, but it’s good to know we can make the big play at the end of games. We’re looking for a little more consistency.”
Junior post Ali Wilkinson remains near the top of the conference in several offensive categories. She is second in scoring at 18.5 points per league game, tied for fourth in rebounding at 8.6, sixth in field-goal percentage at 52.9 percent and seventh in free-throw shooting at 85.8 percent.
Wilkinson needs 58 points to reach 1,000 for her career.
Sophomore Jamie Bresnahan, who missed Saturday’s win at Minot State with a sore knee, will miss both games this weekend, with Steffaney Thomas starting in her place. Thiesse said she expects Bresnahan to return by next weekend’s games.
Bresnahan is averaging 8.4 points and 4.8 rebounds and leads the team with 15 blocked shots.
The women’s team (13-8, 12-7) needs one victory in the last three games to clinch a conference-tournament berth. Abby Rothenbuehler leads the team in scoring at 12.5 points per game, followed by Julia Dysthe at 12.0 and Kelsey Florian at 11.8.
The men’s team (13-10, 10-8) needs one more win or a loss by Bethel and St. Olaf to clinch a spot in the MIAC playoffs. The Gusties are the fifth seed right now. Jim Hill has been the team’s leading scorer 11 times, and Ben Biewen has led the team eight times. Blake Shay had been the leading scorer in three straight games until Wednesday.
The men’s team (9-11, 7-3) has two key UMAC home games this weekend, hosting Northwestern (15-6, 8-2) tonight and North Central (12-8, 7-3) on Saturday. A sweep would put the Vikings into the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament with two games remaining in the regular season.
For the women’s team (6-15, 4-6), Kasslin Swenson is the UMAC player of the week for the second time in the last four weeks. She’s averaging 11.3 points and 8.0 rebounds. Shelby Wiederhoeft has 101 offensive rebounds in 21 games. The Vikings have used the same starting lineup in every game.