Men’s basketball extends win streak with weekend sweep

Austin Svehla, Online/Social Media Editor

The Wayne State men’s basketball team is starting to hit its stride, extending its win streak to four games after a pair of victories over UMary and Minot State last Friday and Saturday at Rice Auditorium. The wins improved the Wildcats’ record to 10-15 on the season and 7-9 in the NSIC.

Against the Marauders Jan. 31, sophomore Jordan Janssen had the hot hand early, but it was fellow sophomore Nick Ferrarini who stood out above the rest in an 85-78 overtime win.

After UMary scored the first five points out of the gate, Janssen, a Lincoln East graduate, scored six straight points to give WSC a one-point lead with 16:11 remaining in the first half.

Mary’s Matthew Kreklow scored on a fast break to put the Marauders back in front, but soon after, it was Ferrarini’s turn to score six consecutive points for Wayne State. Ferrarini nailed two consecutive 3-pointers to put WSC in front, 12-8 at the 13:38 mark.

The two teams were never separated by more than seven points in the first half, as Wayne State took a 27-20 lead after a Nate Mohr 3-pointer with 3:55 left in the half. Mary’s Glenn Jordan scored on a fast break with :01 left in the half to cut WSC’s lead to 33-29.

Wayne State shot 46.7 percent from the field in the first half while holding the Marauders to just 31.4 percent.

After Mary cut the Wildcat lead to 37-34 at the 18:03 mark of the second half, the ball started finding nylon at a rapid rate for WSC.

Ferrarini converted a layup on a fast break then hit a 3-pointer on WSC’s following possession. Al’Tavius Jackson then recorded a bucket after corralling his own miss before Ferrarini drilled another deep 3-pointer to hit 16 points on the night. Ben Dentlinger followed with a three-point play the old fashion way on the following Wildcat possession to cap a 13-0 run and give WSC a 50-34 advantage with 15:04 left.

Sixteen points was the largest lead Wayne State saw, as UMary used the remainder of the second half to continually cut away at the Wildcat lead.

“You look at the scoreboard and you have a 16-point lead and you feel pretty good about it,” head coach Jeff Kaminsky said. “But you also look at the clock and realize there are still 16 minutes left to go and when you’re playing against good teams with skilled guys, it’s not very often that you’re going to extend that lead to 25 or 30.”

By the 12:45 mark, the Wildcats’ largest lead was cut in half (54-46) and by the 6:20 mark, it was cut in half again (64-60).

Mary’s Wyatt Carr tied the game at 71-71 with just under a minute remaining, and WSC failed to capitalize on its last two possessions, forcing five minutes of free basketball.

After the Marauders scored on their first possession of overtime, Mohr hit a 3-pointer to knot the game at 74 apiece. Janssen converted on a layup, Jackson hit a free throw and Janssen scored again in the paint to put WSC in front by four.

After a pair of Marauder free throws, Mohr hit the dagger from 20 feet away on the right wing as time expired on the shot clock to give the Wildcats an 81-77 lead with :41 left in overtime.

“He (Mohr) hasn’t just made improvements from last year to this year, but even the first part of the season to the second start of the season,” Kaminsky said. “I think he’s just playing with a lot more confidence. He’s such a good shooter and scorer and he’s had to find that balance between being an aggressive scorer and helping our team on offense, and he’s done a really good job of that recently.”

Ferrarini then got a block on Mary’s next possession and followed with a layup before Mohr put the game on ice with a pair of free throws to give WSC an 85-77 win, the third victory in a row.

The Omaha native Ferrarini was two points shy of his career high, finishing with 27 points on the evening on 11-19 shooting (5-10 from beyond the arc). Janssen recorded a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds while Mohr recorded 15 points.

Ferrarini was named the NSIC Player of the Week on Feb.3.

“Nick (Ferrarini) plays with a lot of emotion and this sport requires that,” Kaminsky said. “I think he has an edge, and I think when he channels that and focuses that in the right direction, it’s really good for him and really good for our team. A lot of success can be attributed to him, not just from a scoring standpoint, but he’s worked really hard to improve on the defensive end.”

Mary shot 58 percent from the field in the second half, but the Wildcats held the Marauders to just 13 percent shooting in overtime to seal their ninth win of the 2019-2020 campaign.

The Wildcats welcomed the Beavers of Minot State to Rice Auditorium on Feb. 1, and the two schools traded buckets often throughout the first half, similarly to Friday evening’s bout.

Neither school created any separation until the last three minutes of the first half. After Minot State’s Duane Goodman Jr. hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 31-31, Ferrarini responded with a deep ball of his own to give WSC a 34-31 lead at the 1:55 mark.

Nate Thayer then extended the lead to five after a pair of free throws with less than a minute left in the half before Mohr hit two of his own to give the Wildcats a 38-31 lead with :28 left in the half.
The Beavers failed to score on their following possession and Mohr nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give WSC its largest lead (10) of the game going into the half.

“I think we were playing hard but we weren’t playing with an edge and consequently, they (Minot) went on a pretty big run there,” Kaminsky said. After the media timeout at the end of the half, I thought we played really hard and had that defensive edge and we made a couple shots. Going into the half up 10 instead of potentially five or four or three was certainly a big factor in that game.”

The 10-point halftime lead was cut to six with 10:12 left in the game as Minot’s Kody Dwyer converted on a layup after a Cody Max steal to bring the score to 52-46.

Four straight points from Janssen, a fast break layup from Jackson and a ferocious dunk from Ben Dentlinger extended the WSC lead to 60-46 with 4:41 left.

MSU never got closer to within seven the rest of the way, and with 1:27 remaining and WSC leading 67-57, it was Mohr again delivering the dagger – this one a 3-pointer with the shot clock expiring and 1:27 left in the game.

The Wildcats put the finishing touches on their fourth straight win through the final 97 seconds of the game en route to a 71-62 win.

Janssen recorded a double-double for the second time in as many nights, delivering a 19-point, 10-rebound performance. Jackson pitched in 13, Mohr had 12 and Ferrarini added 11 for WSC. Wayne State shot 15 free throws on the night while Minot only shot two the entire evening, something Kaminsky attributes to excellent discipline.

“It’s always an emphasis to keep the other team off the line because the free throw is the one shot I’ve never figured out how to defend,” Kaminsky joked. “I think we did a really good job of staying in front, and that was a big emphasis against Minot. Our group of guards did a really good job of staying in front of guys, but our big guys also did a phenomenal job off switches.”

The Wildcats will look to extend their current win streak this weekend with a pair of road games against St. Cloud State (12-10, 9-7 NSIC) on Feb. 7 and Minnesota Duluth (16-6, 11-5 NSIC) on Feb. 8.

St. Cloud State is coming off a weekend sweep of Upper Iowa and Winona State. It was the first home loss of the season for Upper Iowa and just the second home defeat for Winona State (WSC was the first). Duluth is coming off losses to Winona and Upper Iowa last weekend, but Kaminsky said slip-up weekends can happen when competing in as difficult of a conference as the NSIC.

“We just need to continue focusing on getting better and understand how we need to play to win,” Kaminsky said. “We’ve gotten better and we’ve won some close games. There’s still a lot of season left and if we keep getting better, I like our chances every time the ball is tipped off.”

Zach Hain