Wildcat men get first win in conference

Reshun Trimble, Staff Writer

Last week the Wildcat men’s basketball team played three games, against University of Nebraska-Kearney, Minnesota State-Mankato and Concordia-St. Paul.
Facing off against Kearney, the Lopers started fast, taking a 10-0 lead against the Wildcats.

“It was kind of a mystery,” Head Coach Jeff Kaminsky said. “I thought our guys were ready to play. I felt like we could have got to a good start, but it didn’t just work out that way.”

In the second half the Wildcats fought back into the game when Kendall Jacks scored back-to-back baskets to make the game, 47-46 with 13 minutes remaining. The Lopers responded with a 12-0 run and held the Wildcats to just one basket in a nine minute stretch. Kearney won the game 75-63 led by four double digit scorers, including Trey Larsen, 18 points and 8 boards. Wayne lost the rebound game 34-28.

“For us to be a good rebounding team,” Kaminsky said. “We have to be a great block out team because were limited size-wise.”

Austin Esters had eight boards and led scoring with 12 points, followed by Jordan Cornelius with 11. Vance Janssen had a good defensive day with three steals.

Wayne hosted Mankato at home for the first home game of the year. Wayne state blew an 11-point lead in the second half to lose 77-72 in the NSIC matchup. Wayne led 36-30 at half, partly due to shooting 50 percent from the field. Going into the second half the momentum carried while Wayne held a lead until the 5-minute mark in the second half.

“They made plays, especially their guard, he was a hard guy to stop,” Kaminsky said. “I didn’t feel like we lost the game. I thought we played well, but when it comes down to games like that which are highly competitive it comes down to who make plays and who doesn’t, and I felt like they made more plays.”

That was when Mankato began making a charge, scoring 9 of the next 11 points to take a 66-60 lead with 2:50 to play. The Mavericks held the lead, making 11-12 free throws in the final 90 seconds of the game. In the second half the Wildcats shot 33 percent from the field, going 9-27, while the Mavericks were 13-26, going 50 percent. Charlie Brown, for the Mavs, seemed to get the ball in his hands every Mankato possession, as he scored 26 points with 9 of those 26 coming from the charity stripe.

“He was a problem for most defenses. He’s a unique player at our level,” Kaminsky said. “He is exceptionally good at attacking the basket, has a great three and has the ability to hit pull-up jumpers. You don’t see a lot of guys who have all three.”

Jacks had a great shooting night, scoring 20 points while shooting 60 percent from the field. Esters had a game high of eight boards.

Wayne state ended its five-game losing streak Saturday, rolling past Concordia 76-48. The ‘Cat defensive played a great game, forcing a season-high 21 turnovers, forcing the Golden Bears to shoot 32 percent from the field and shooting 3-11 from the three-point line.

“I’m really proud. We are trying to pride ourselves on being a good defensive team, and the challenge on Friday was to play defense for 40 minutes,” Kaminsky said. “I felt overall we did a lot of good things.”

Everything seemed to be clicking as the Wildcats hit 12 threes. Also, the Wildcats had a great night converting 20 points off of turnovers. Wayne pushed the lead to 17 twice in the first half, leading 36-20.

The second half started with the Wildcats hitting 6 of 8 threes, putting the game out of reach, 56-29 with 13:30 remaining.

“Not necessarily that we were planning on shooting threes, usually when we run stuff we have counters, but our guys happened to execute it and our guys knocked them in,” Kaminsky said.

Guard Matt Thomas had 17 points, while Brian Goodwin scored 16. Wayne had a slight rebounding edge over Concordia, 33-32. Janssen and Goodwin had three steals apiece while Goodwin and Bonner each had five rebounds.

The Wildcats go on the road this week, playing the University of Mary on Friday and Minot State on Saturday.