Friday, January 7, 2011

Big games coming up for MSU basketball

Minnesota State hosts Southwest Minnesota State on Saturday, with the women's game starting at 2 p.m. and the men's at 4 p.m.

It's getting close to the halfway point of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference season, and both the women and men need victories to keep momentum, especially on the home court.

The women (7-5, 4-4 in Northern Sun) have won four of their last five games to get back into the upper half of the league, tied for sixth with Mary and Northern State, next week's road opponents.

Southwest is 3-9, 2-6 in the conference, but with a new coach and new schemes, the Mustangs seem to be getting bettter.

It looks like the Mavericks will have sophomore post Ali Wilkinson available. She took a hard fall late in Tuesday's victory over Minnesota Crookston and left the court limping, holding her hip. She hasn't participated in the contact portion of practices, but coach Pam Gohl said Wilkinson, who leads the team in scoring and rebounding and has become a double-double machine, will play.

The men's team (11-1, 7-1) continues to roll, though the victories have not been easy. I thought Southwest would be a conference contender this season, but the Mustangs (6-5, 3-4) have struggled to score.

Senior Jefferson Mason has been playing at an MVP level, scoring 58 points in a pair of victories this week to earn Northern Sun Player of the year honors, and nearly every player contributes something important each game.

Southwest is a rugged rebounding team, which could give the Mavericks some trouble. Minnesota State has used perimeter pressure to keep the ball out of the post, but the Mustangs go hard to the offensive glass as a big part of their offense.

Freshman center Connor O'Brien is questionable for this game, spraining his ankle early in the second half of Tuesday's victory. The Mavericks can't afford to be without its post players, especially against Southwest.

Junior Mitch Grundman will start if O'Brien can't make it.
You can ask questions or make comments by following my live blog from courtside Saturday.

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