by CHRISTOPHER EDWARDS
From The Winonan, WSU’s student newspaper
The Winona State University men’s basketball team started the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) tournament on Wednesday, February 26.
Both games were against opponents that the Warriors beat earlier in the year.
In the first matchup, the Warriors had a home game against University of Minnesota-Crookston.
The Warriors’ offense came out firing early as they were able to get out to a 11-0 lead with nine points coming from junior forward Andrea Lo Biondo.
The Golden Eagles finally got on the board with 15:59 left in the first half. Winona State then extended the lead to 19 with 6:58 left in the first half, then got the lead to 23 at halftime.
Winona State’s defense was suffocating as they were able to hold the Golden Eagles to only nine made shots from the field and 25-percent shooting from the field.
The Warriors on offense shot over 45 percent from the field and made eight of 17.
Winona State ran away with the game and empty their bench en-route to the 88-57 win.
Junior guard Devin Whitelow said the team was excited about their victory against Minnesota-Crookston but not satisfied. “We were really happy, we knew we had things we had to clean up going into Saturday, but we were excited to keep playing,” said Whitelow.
In the second round of the NSIC tournament, the Warriors took on University of Minnesota-Duluth at the Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.
The Warriors were able to get out to a quick lead and got it to double-digits with 13:14 left in the first half following a three-pointer made by junior Kevion Taylor.
Later on in the first half, the Bulldogs were able to cut their deficit to six with 3:18 left.
Winona State responded and got their lead back to double-digits. At halftime the Warriors led 40-29.
The key for the Warriors’ early lead was their defense and offensive rebounding. They held the Bulldogs to only two made three-pointers and 40-percent shooting from the field.
Winona State was also able to get 13 second-chance points and make six three-pointers.
In the second half, all the Warriors had to do is take smarter shots and play long stretches of defense.
After 1:30 of no scoring to begin the second half, both teams started to go back and forth.
Consecutive three-pointers made by the Golden Eagles cut the Warrior lead to six with 15:26 left in regulation.
The Warriors were able to get the lead back to 10 but Minnesota-Duluth responded right away to cut the deficit to just three.
Winona State then got it going led by senior guard Caleb Wagner who had 10 of the Warriors’ 13 straight points.
But the Bulldogs still would not let the game slip away as they went on 23-0 run.
Wagner added a three-pointer at the buzzer as the Warriors fell 76-72 to the Bulldogs.
The Warriors’ season ends on a low note, but senior Caleb Wagner went out with a bang in his final game as a Warrior by adding 30 points along with four rebounds and five assists.
Whitelow said he felt that the run by the Bulldogs happened because they made mistakes defensively. “We had lapses where we stopped guarding and executing,” Whitelow said. “We didn’t extend our lead and they kept cutting it down and we weren’t able to get a hold of it.”
He also added that next year, the team will use it as fuel because the loss hurt them, and it was ultimately something they could learn from.
The Warriors will return next year.