Men’s basketball falls twice ahead of conference tournament

Austin Svehla, Online/Social Media Editor

Wayne State men’s basketball saw its losing streak hit six games last weekend on the road as the Wildcats fell to Southwest Minnesota State and Sioux Falls to close out the regular season. WSC finished the regular season with a 10-21 overall record (7-15 NSIC) and enters the NSIC Tournament as the No. 6 seed.

Large halftime deficits have been a problem for WSC over the better part of February and it was no different last Friday in Marshall, Minnesota.

The Mustangs jumped out to an 8-0 lead through the first 2:36 and led by as many as 18 points in the game’s first 20 minutes. SMSU took a 44-28 lead into halftime.

“We needed to make them take tough shots and try to deny entry passes so getting into their offense was difficult,” junior Ben Dentlinger said.

Wayne State shot 43.5 percent in the first half and were led by Nick Ferrarini with eight points, followed by Jordan Janssen with six. The Wildcats attempted only four 3-pointers in the first half, making just one from beyond the arc.

The second half was essentially a back-and-forth affair and WSC cut its halftime deficit to nine (55-46) with 12:44 left in the game.

“I just think it makes every possession more valuable,” Dentlinger said. “It’s tough to maintain a run when a turnover happens, or they get an offensive rebound.”

Nine points was as marginal of a deficit Wayne State would see in the second half. The Mustangs went on a 16-8 run over the next 10 minutes to build a 71-54 advantage.

This deficit proved to be insurmountable and the Wildcats fell 78-61 to bring their record to 10-20. WSC shot just 34.5 percent in the second half and the Wildcats shot 3-15 from beyond the arc in the game.

Janssen was the lead scorer on the night with 13 points and Ferrarini added 11.

Last Saturday provided WSC with a tall task, as the Wildcats were set to conclude their regular season against the NSIC South’s top team, Sioux Falls. The Cougars entered Saturday with a 20-7 overall record and a 16-5 mark in the NSIC.

The Wildcats avoided a poor start against the Cougars and both teams traded blows through the first half. Neither team had more than a five-point advantage through the first 20 minutes. USF’s Milan Surlic hit a 3-pointer with :37 left in the half to give the Cougars a 33-28 lead at the break.

“Making them take tough shots and keeping them off the offensive glass definitely helped. On the offensive side we needed to get good shots and our shots,” Dentlinger said.

Layups by Al’Tavius Jackson and Ferrarini to start the second half cut the Wildcat deficit to one point. Each team traded buckets over the next three-and-a-half minutes and with WSC trailing 40-39 at the 14:51 mark, USF went on a 7-0 run to build a 47-39 advantage.

The Cougars gradually extended their lead through the remainder of the game, taking a 69-55 lead with 4:27 left in the game. WSC cut that deficit to 11 by the end of the game, but the Wildcats were sent home with a 75-64 defeat.

Janssen scored 19 points in the loss to lead the Wildcats in scoring for the second time in as many nights. Jackson scored 15 of his own and Ferrarini contributed 10. WSC shot 54.3 percent on the evening.

Both Janssen and Dentlinger stand at 6’7”, which is something extremely beneficial to WSC. Each player complements the other and that has contributed to much of the success Janssen (WSC’s leading scorer) has had this season.

“When he gets the ball in the post, he draws so much attention so I can cut off the ball and get an easy layup,” Dentlinger said.

The Wildcats finished with the same conference record (7-15) as Concordia-St. Paul, but WSC finished the regular season with a better overall record, so the Wildcats were slated as the No. 6 seed for the Sanford Health NSIC Tournament.

As the South’s No. 6 team, the Wildcats were paired with the NSIC North’s No. 3 seed, MSU-Moorhead. The two teams met this season on Jan. 17 in Wayne, with the Dragons earning an 82-71 win.

Tipoff Wednesday in Moorhead is set for 6 p.m. If the Wildcats defeat Moorhead, they will advance to the tournament’s quarterfinals on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The NSIC Tournament is set to conclude March 3.

“When we played them (Moorhead) earlier in the year, they had a really good first half and then we played good defense and held them to 23 points in the second half,” Dentlinger said. “If we can make them struggle on offense, I think we have a good chance.”