Men’s basketball splits a pair of thrilling weekend games


Luke Ruhl

Jay Saunders, middle, celebrates after Elijah Watson, right, makes a shot for the Wildcats in the teams 66-67 loss to Minnesota State on Friday February 10 at Rice Auditorium in Wayne Nebraska.

Nate Bope, Staff Writer

The Wayne State College men’s basketball team took part a couple of thrillers this past weekend at home. The Wildcats lost on a last second shot to the Minnesota Stata Mankato Mavericks, 67-66 on Friday. Then on Saturday, after being down by as many as 16 points, the Wildcats storm back to force overtime and beat the Concordia St. Paul Golden Bears, 92-79. With the results around the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference this past weekend, the Wildcats move to 17-9 on the season and 12-8 in NSIC play. They now have a share of the top spot in the NSIC South division.  

On Friday, the Wildcats squared off with the Minnesota State Mankato Mavericks. Both teams started off the game with poor shooting performances, as there were only 12 total points scored in the first seven and a half minutes. However, both sides quickly found their rhythm. The Mavericks maintained control the lead for most of the first half, but the lead never got larger than six. With 33 seconds left in the first half, sophomore guard Jay Saunders made a layup to give the Wildcats the lead heading into the locker room, 32-30. Both teams had the exact same shooting percentage at 40.74% and were 11-27 from the field. 

In the second half, it was Wayne State that held the lead for the majority of the time, although the Wildcat lead never got larger than four points. With 2:31 left to go, the Wildcats held a four-point lead, 66-62, and looked to be in control. However, the Mavericks star duo in Malik and Kyreese Willingham took over. The two brothers combined to hit the two biggest shots of the game. Malik Willingham banked in a crazy three-pointer as the shot clock hit zero to bring the game within 1:03 left. Then with three seconds left, Kyreese Willingham hit the eventual game winning shot to give the Mavericks the 67-66 win. 

“We felt we had control with a minute and a half left,” said Janssen. “We had played well, and obviously, things didn’t go our way after we let up that shot.” 

Three Wildcats scored in double figures. Janssen had 17 to go with 8 rebounds, Saunders had 15, and sophomore Cody McCullough had 11. Sophomore Elijah Watson played 14 minutes and was 4-4 from the field, but after two technical fouls, he was ejected with 7:04 left in the game.  

The Concordia St. Paul Golden Bears came to town on Saturday, and they started out hot against the Wildcats. The Golden Bears led for most of the first half, and even pushed the lead to as many as ten before going into halftime with a 33-26 lead. 

CSP would extend the lead to as many as 16 in the second half and showed no signs of slowing down. The score was 46-30 with 16:17 left. Then the Wildcats turned it on. Over the next four minutes, Wayne State went on a 14-1 run and closes the gap to three with 12:26 left to go. The Wildcats would take the lead with 7:35 left to go, only for it to be taken right back by CSP, who held the lead for the rest of the second half. That is until Janssen made a layup with 34 seconds to go to force the game into overtime with the score sided at 75.  

In the extra period, the two sides traded baskets to make the score 79-79. The Wildcats didn’t stop there. They took at seven point lead with 43 seconds left in overtime before frustration boiled over for the Golden Bears’ star Antwan Kimmons. With 35 seconds left, Kimmons was for a foul and kept trying to persuade to official, only to get himself ejected. Nate Mohr would hit six free throws to give the Wildcats a dominating 92-79 win in overtime. 

“It was a rough start for us,” McCullough said. “But we rallied behind each other and got the win.” 

Janssen led the Wildcats in scoring again with 30 points while fifth year senior Nate Mohr had 24 and McCullough had a double double with 14 points and 14 rebounds.  

The Wildcats final weekend of games come against the first place Sioux Falls Cougars on Thursday at Rice Auditorium at 5:30 and the third place Southwest Minnesota State Mustangs in Marshall, Minnesota at 3:30.