Men’s basketball has 1-1 weekend after two close road games

Austin Svehla, Assistant Sports Editor

Wayne State men’s basketball found themselves in two close affairs this past weekend, falling to MSU Moorhead 80-76 on Friday and defeating Northern State 84-81 on Saturday. The Wildcats now sit at 14-4 on the season (9-3 NSIC) to remain in first place in the NSIC South division.

“I thought we played well all weekend,” head coach Jeff Kaminsky said. “I think the disappointment on Friday was we really had control of the game, we gave up a few transition layups that gave them some life, and we just didn’t take care of the ball.”

On Friday night, the Wildcats were in Moorhead, Minnesota to match up with the NSIC North’s second place team in MSU Moorhead.

The first half consisted of six ties and six lead changes, with Wayne State trailing 25-19 at the 7:12 mark in the first half. From there, the Wildcats went on a 10-4 run, capped by a three-pointer from senior Vance Janssen to tie the game at 29-29 with 4:49 left in the half. The Wildcats then took the lead, as Janssen knocked down another three with 10 seconds left in the half to give WSC a 38-33 lead at the break.

A 6-0 spurt to start the second half gave the Wildcats their largest lead of the game. The Dragons worked themselves back into the game, outscoring WSC 18-7 over the next five minutes to tie the game at 51-51 with 12:49 remaining. The ’Cats built a 58-53 lead, only to disappear after a 10-1 Dragon run.

The last lead of the game for WSC came off a Trevin Joseph layup at the 6:29 mark that gave the Wildcats a 66-65 advantage. Moorhead built their lead to four, with the Wildcats coming within two points of the Dragons with under a minute to play. Free throws for Moorhead sealed the 80-76 victory.

Senior Kendall Jacks led the Wildcats with 17 points on the night, while freshman Nick Ferrarini and Vance Janssen added 16 each. Janssen’s 16 put him at 1,001 points for his career, making him the 34th player in WSC men’s basketball history to achieve the 1,000-point milestone.

“I thought we played pretty well overall over the weekend,” Ferrarini said. “They’re both obviously good teams, first and second in the north division, both tough environments to play in as well. I thought we turned the ball over a little too much that first game, but I’d love to see [Moorhead] again in the NSIC Tournament.”

On Saturday, the Wildcats found themselves playing a similar first half against Northern State as they did against Moorhead, with neither team gaining more than a two-possession lead in a half that consisted of eight ties and seven lead changes. The Wildcats’ largest deficit of the first half came at 13-8 at the 15:32 mark while their largest lead of the first half was 38-32 at the 2:37 mark. The Wolves closed to within four at the half, as WSC held a 42-38 advantage.

The second half started with NSU knotting the game at 46 apiece, but from there, the Wildcats went on a 14-0 run courtesy of a layup from Ferrarini, back-to-back treys from Joseph, a three from Vance Janssen, and a three-point play from freshman Jordan Janssen over a 3:06 span to give WSC a 60-46 lead. The Wildcats maintained that 14-point lead over the next nine minutes, leading 73-59 with just over five minutes remaining in the game. NSU went on a 9-0 run to pull within five points, but WSC spoiled that run with a 6-0 run of their own to take a 79-70 lead with 1:06 remaining.

With the Wildcats leading 82-75 with 16 seconds left in the game, NSU got back-to back three-pointers to pull within 82-81 with 3.4 seconds remaining. Vance Janssen was fouled with just under three seconds to play, when he converted to free throws to give the Wildcats an 84-81 lead. The Wolves failed to convert on their last-second three-point attempt, sealing victory number 14 for the Wildcats.

“I think the chemistry is really good,” Ferrarini said. “I think that was kind of a question coming in; how would the older guys get along with the younger guys, but I think our chemistry and togetherness has been really good all year long. The older guys have done a tremendous job of bringing us younger guys up and helping us out.”

Joseph led the Wildcats with 31 points on 12 of 19 shooting, his second 30-point game of the season. Jacks had 15 points, Jordan Janssen had 14, and Vance Janssen had 13 of his own.

“Our three seniors have all been awesome all year,” Kaminsky said. “Trevin, Kendall and Vance have been a huge part of our success. I think what I’m most impressed with is that they’re getting better. You really want to see your young guys develop and that’s a big part of things, but when you have your seniors really laying it all out on the line and getting better, that’s just huge for us.”

WSC has already equaled last year’s win total of 14, and only needs one more to improve the program’s record in three consecutive years under Kaminsky.

“I think the first two years there was a lot of progress and we were continuing to make that climb,” Kaminsky said. “We understand the opportunity that we have now, and we also greatly understand the challenge that we have, starting with this weekend.”

The ’Cats are in action at home this weekend as WSC hosts Minnesota State on Saturday at 5:30 and Concordia-St. Paul at 3:30 on Sunday. The ’Cats currently sit one game ahead of Sioux Falls, Minnesota State, and Augustana in the NSIC South, and earning the top spot in the division is something the Wildcats see as a focus moving forward.