Mankato State--er, I mean Minnesota State University Mankato--came to St. Paul HOT. The men were the only 8-1 team in the Northern Sun Conference and were riding a 6 game winning streak, and they were #1 in scoring (79 ppg), #1 in scoring margin (+15 ppg) and the #1 rebounding team in the NSIC. At 11-2 overall, the Mavs are rated #8 in the country in D2.
The women had won just 2 straight but 4-of-5, including an 80-79 win at then undefeated Augustana. They were #2 in scoring (78 ppg) and #3 in scoring margin (+14 ppg). And they too are rated, #20 nationally in D2.
But one of 'em ran into yet another hot team--the Concordia (St. Paul) women, winners of 6-of-7 games, including one that busted a 52-game home winning streak at Wayne State about 10 days ago. And so the Concordia women knocked off Minnesota State University Mankato--the heck with it, Mankato State--83-68 to tighten up the NSIC race, Both are now 7-3, 1 game behind Augustana in the South Division.
But the Maverick men left town the way they came in--riding high, now 9-1--after a dominant 86-70 win that leaves the Concordia men 0-10.
Concordia (St. Paul) women 83 Minnesota State Mankato 68
Concordia took the lead for good at 12-10 and quickly stretched it out to 24-12. Mankato got back within single digits from time to time--36-28 at the half and for the last time at 55-46. But the Bears held the Mavs at bay with an effective defense. Mankato shot 37 percent from the field while Concordia post Kionda Nicks blocked 6 shots and the Bears had 13 steals, 4 of them by Player of the Game Rachel Hansen.
The marquee matchup was inside, however, where a pair of Wisconsin natives and the NSIC's top 2 scorers--the Bears' 6-2 sophomore Anika Whiting and Mankato's 6-foot junior Ali Wilkinson--squared off. Wilkinson won the opening tap and scored the game's 1st bucket, then added another for a 10-8 Mankato lead at 16:30. But Whiting answered with the Bears' 1st 2 buckets, both on over the top passes by Carissa Wolyniec. She quickly added a steal and an offensive rebound and another bucket, on yet another Wolyniec pass, to give Concordia a lead they would never relinquish.
Whiting finished with 28 points, 6 boards and 2 assists, Wilkinson with 23 and 8 boards.
Yet the Bears announced Hansen as Player of the Game. She scored just 10 points, but added game highs in assists with 11, rebounds with 9, and steals with 4. She controlled the ball and controlled the game, as the Mavs' defense was utterly unable to prevent her from running free and doing with the ball and the Bears' offense what she wanted to do.
The Bears, especially, have perfected the in-bounds play, scoring a half-dozen wide-open layups by players cutting down the lane to the hoop, with Hansen or Wolyniec as the trigger.
Wolyniec, meanwhile, opened the 2nd half with a 3 then hit a pair, back-to-back, around the 8 minute mark to end all doubt at 68-48. She finished with 18 points.
No other Mav scored in double figures, and other than Wilkinson (8-of-13) the rest of the Mavs shot 17-for-56 (30 percent). All in all, an impressive performance by Concordia against a solid foe on both ends of the court. But it doesn't get any easier as the Bears will spend the weekend at UMD and then St. Cloud while Mankato does the reverse, visiting St. Cloud, then UMD. Like the Bears and the Mavs, both St. Cloud and UMD are 7-3.
Minnesota State Mankato men 86 Concordia 70
More than Mankato's stellar 9-1 record, the real news is the shocking collapse of the Bears men under coach Kelly Boe. Now 0-10 in the NSIC, the Bears were totally outplayed by a stronger and quicker Maverick team.
Concordia stayed competitive just past the half-way point of the 1st half, in fact leading 19-12 as 6 different players scored the Bears 1st 6 buckets. But Mankato took the lead for good at 22-21 on a cute inside pass from Assem Marei to Connor O'Brien. Quickly it was 32-21 and Concordia never got closer than 7.
The Bears were doubly frustrated by the Mavs' posts Marei and Zach Romashko. Marei muscled his way around the rim to lead Mankato with 18 points, while adding 8 boards and 5 assists. Romashko, on the other hand, hung around the 3 point line and scored on 3 3-pointers, including a couple of quickies that inflated Mankato's lead from 33-26 to 39-26 at about the 2 minute mark of the 1st half. Romashko finished with 13 points.
A 7-2 edge in 3-pointers, of course, doesn't hurt, but still it was in the paint that the Mavs dominated. The rebounds were 41-29, and Mankato used 17 offensive boards, 5 by Marei, to out-scored Concordia 15-7 on 2nd chance points. Jarvis Williams, with 13 points and 8 boards, was also tough around the rim.
The Bears' only answer was point guard Terez Van Pelt, who scored 22 with 6 assists. The other Bears lacked the quickness to get open looks or to prevent the Mavs from getting the same. Mankato turned the ball over just 9 times against the Concordia defense. Based on talent alone, the score coulda/shoulda/woulda been worse but, to their credit, the Bears kept on hustling to the end.
It doesn't get any easier...but you've already heard that. The Bears and Mavs men will also be visiting St. Cloud (8-2) this weekend, along with 2-8 UMD where perhaps Concordia can get its 1st conference win. The Mankato-St. Cloud game should be a doozy.