by CHRIS EDWARDS
From The Winonan, WSU’s student newspaper
The Winona State University (WSU) men’s basketball team competed in two home games this weekend, opening up with a 75-71 loss to Concordia University, St. Paul, then rebounding with an 84-56 win over rival Minnesota State University-Mankato.
In the first matchup against the Golden Bears earlier in the season, the Warriors pulled out an 82-66 victory. The team looked like they may get the season sweep as they began the game on Friday with a 15-5 run in the opening seven minutes. Concordia closed the gap to one by going on a 16-7 run of their own to make the score 22-21 with seven minutes remaining in the half. Winona State then pushed the lead back to double-digits and ended the half with a 45-30 lead after senior forward Tommy Gathje made a layup to beat the buzzer.
Junior Calab Wagner and sophomore guard/forward Kevion Taylor both added 13 points in the first half and the Warriors won the rebound battle 15-7. The team also held the Golden Bears to under 50 percent while shooting over 58 percent themselves.
Both teams came out slow in the second half, but Concordia was able to get it going first. With 2:11 left the Golden Bears grabbed their first lead and, with the score 70-69, Concordia hit a jumper to extend the lead to three. The Warriors cut the lead to one with a minute left in regulation, but failed to score again in the rest of the game as they fell 71-75.
Wagner, who had 24 points in 38 minutes, said the team defensively has been struggling in their close losses. “The other teams are just shooting lights out and just man-to-man we’re getting beat.”
Despite the loss, the continued improvement of Wagner was on display, as he has continued to see an increase in minutes in recent weeks.
“I like being able to be out there and helping the team and affecting the team, whether it’s scoring defensively or giving out assists, but just for me, I like the challenge of having to stay on the court,” Wagner said.
The second game was a senior-day matchup against rival Minnesota State University-Mankato. Both teams came out with a fast pace as the first half started out close with two ties and two lead changes. Winona State was able to pull ahead 24-17 with 9:45 left in the first half. However, the Mavericks cut the deficit to five — but WSU responded, getting the lead to double-digits with 6:57 left in the half.
Later on in the half, after Taylor was called for an offensive foul on what would’ve been a made basket, an exchange occurred between head coach Todd Eisner and referees, ending with Winona State receiving a technical.
Gathje led the way in points for the Warriors in the first with 19. Winona shot 56 percent from the field while holding the Mavericks to 41 percent.
In the second half, the Warriors had to keep playing tough defense while taking smart shots on offense. Less than a minute into the half they were able to get the lead to 20.
Seniors Domask, Charlie Koontz and Tommy Gathje received standing ovations as they were subbed out late in the 84-56 victory.
“It was pretty tough to kind of erase our mindset from yesterday after such a tough loss, but I mean, we just knew it was our last game here senior night, so we gave it our all,” Domask said.
The Warriors will begin the NSIC tournament at the University of Minnesota-Duluth on Wednesday, February 27, with tip-off at 7:30 p.m.