Warrior Men Split Final Home Games
The Winona State University Men’s Basketball team was looking to get back to the .500 mark, playing their final regular season home games of the 2016-17 season.
The Warriors looked like teams of old, as they shook off a slow start to cruise to an 82-67 win over Concordia-St. Paul at McCown Gymnasium. Both teams tried to gauge each other in the first half, and though the lead changed hands 10 times, and the score was tied 3 times in the half, the Warriors rallied from a brief 2 point deficit, and didn’t trail again after the 3:09 mark of the half.
Connor Flack had a huge night for the Warriors, scoring 21 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the 3-point line. Both of those totals were career highs for the Warrior Sophomore. Riley Bambenek scored 16 points for the Warriors, while Isaiah Gray and Caleb Wagner both scored 10 points.
Freshman sensation Ted Brown of the Golden Bears led Concordia in scoring with a career-high 19 points.
Winona State is now 11-12 on the season, 8-11 in the NSIC.
Coming off their win over Concordia-St. Paul the night before, the Warriors were set to end the Home Regular Season against their arch-rivals, the Minnesota State Mavericks.
As per usual, Riley Bambenek had a big night against the Mavericks. Bambenek pumped in 28 points – his second highest point total of the season, and just shy of his career-high of 33 points, set against Minnesota State in December of 2013. In the process, Bambenek surpassed the 1500 point total in his Warrior career, becoming just the 13th player in WSU history to reach that mark. Bambenek has 1507 career points, and is 86 points behind Justin Treptow (1996-00) for 12th All-time at WSU. Bambenek has 2 regular season games, and the playoffs to try to advance another spot.
In the game, the lead switched 10 times, and there were 5 ties (all in the second half). Minnesota State led by 14 points in the first half, but Winona State was able to chip away to pull within 4 points at halftime.
The Warriors took their first lead just a minute and a half into the second half, thanks to a 3 by Bambenek, and a jumper by Tommy Gathje. That set off a furious second half, where the Warriors would build a 7-point lead with 3:42 left to go. However, the Mavericks went on a 10-2 run in the final minutes of the game. Winona State held a 1-point lead with 58 seconds to go, thanks to a layup by Kyle Bauman, but Isaiah Gray missed on the Warriors’ next possession.
Jon Fuqua, the Mavericks leading scorer this season, was held in check most of the game, frustrated by early foul trouble. He would come through in the clutch, scoring what would be the game-winner with under 5 seconds on the clock.
The Warriors had one last chance, but Gray’s jumper as the clock expired missed, and the Mavericks won 69-68.
Two other Warriors, besides Bambenek, finished in double-figures. Gathje had 12, and Bauman had 11. Gray led the team in rebounds, with 8, scoring 8 points.
Winona State is now 11-13 overall, 8-12 in the NSIC. They will finish the regular season on the road, playing Augustana on Feb. 18, and Wayne State on Feb. 19. Depending on the outcomes this weekend, the Warriors could finish in either 5th, 6th or 7th place in the NSIC. Playoffs begin on Feb. 22 – Winona State will be on the road for the playoffs, with their first round opponent yet to be determined.