Men’s basketball splits final home games

Allison Mueller

First-year guard Caleb Wagner looks for an open pass during the Winona State men’s basketball game against Concordia University, St. Paul  on Friday, Feb. 10 in McCown Gymnasium. The Warriors beat the Golden Bears 82-67 after playing deep into their bench. (Photo by Nikko Aries)
First-year guard Caleb Wagner looks for an open pass during the Winona State men’s basketball game against Concordia University, St. Paul
on Friday, Feb. 10 in McCown Gymnasium. The Warriors beat the Golden Bears 82-67 after playing deep into their bench. (Photo by Nikko Aries)

Adam Kirk / Winonan

The Winona State University men’s basketball team beat the Concordia University, St. Paul Golden Bears Friday night at home 82-67 after a second-half surge of hot shooting. The following day the Warriors fell on Senior Day to the Minnesota State University, Mankato Mavericks by one point, 68-69.

After a competitive first half in which key starters of the Winona State team dealt with foul trouble, the Warriors outscored the Golden Bears in the second half.

Head coach Todd Eisner was forced to go deep into his bench while struggling with the foul trouble. First-years Caleb Wagner and Spencer Treder played some big minutes off the bench.

Wagner scored eight first-half points and knocked down two 3-pointers.

“We had a lot of points per game sitting on the bench a good majority of the first half,” Eisner said. “I thought the guys that came in did a really good job of keeping our heads above water. Caleb was very good in the first half.”

In the second half, the Warriors came out and pulled away thanks to a few key players.

Senior Riley Bambenek scored 10 of his 16 points in the second half and connected on four of five 3-point attempts in the game.

Eisner said, “Riley has been someone who can really score in bunches and he got a bunch going early to start the second half, which was good to see since he had to sit a good portion of the first half.”

Sophomore Connor Flack led the Warriors with a season-high 21 points. He shot four of six from the 3-point line in the game.

“I felt comfortable and in rhythm. I got one to go in and felt like I could shoot another one and that went in, so I just felt comfortable shooting it,” Flack said.

The Warriors played the Mavericks for their Senior Day on Saturday.

The senior class for the Warriors this season includes Bambenek, Josh Mongan, Isaiah Gray and Kyle Bauman, and three of these players have scored least 1,000 career points.

Eisner said, “All four seniors have made positive contributions to our program in their own respective way. They each can be proud of their individual accomplishments during their time at WSU.”

Senior Isaiah Gray prepares to shoot a free throw after drawing a foul during  the men’s basketball game Friday, Feb. 10 in the McCown Gymnasium. (Photo by Brianna Murphy)
Senior Isaiah Gray prepares to shoot a free throw after drawing a foul during
the men’s basketball game Friday, Feb. 10 in the McCown Gymnasium. (Photo by Brianna Murphy)

The Warriors trailed throughout most of the first half against the Mavericks, but fought back and got within three points before halftime.

In the second half, both teams battled in a tightly contested game. Early in the half Bambenek scored his 21st point of the game to give him 1,500 total career points. Bambenek is the 13th Winona State player to reach that milestone.

Bambenek, who scored his career-high 33 points against Mankato his first year, finished his final home game with 28 points.

The second half was a back-and-forth battle. With more than three minutes remaining, Winona State led 66-59. Mankato responded with a 7-0 run to tie the game at 66.

With a minute remaining, the Mavericks split a pair of free throws to take the lead by a point. Bauman answered back with a layup to put the Warriors ahead 68-67.

Mankato came down and connected on a jump shot to put them up by a point with 4.2 seconds remaining.

Winona State had one final possession to win the game and got a decent look at a last-second 3-point attempt that did not go in. The Warriors had their senior night spoiled, losing 68-69.

The team competed hard both nights but is still looking for improvements to finish the season, according to Flack.

“I think we have a lot of things to work on and it definitely starts at the defensive end,” Flack said. “We have to keep people out of the paint and keep people in front of us.”

The Warriors play their final two regular season games on the road against Augustana University

in Sioux Falls, S.D. at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17 and against Wayne State College in Wayne, Neb. the following day at 6 p.m. Winona State currently stands with an 11-13 overall record and 8-12 in the conference.

By Adam Kirk