Friday, January 14, 2011

Notes for a weekend of MSU basketball

Minnesota State plays at Northern State on Friday and at Mary on Saturday. Both games are big for the Mavericks' men's and women's basketball teams, though for different reasons.

The men need to keep winning to hold onto their lead in the Northern Sun. Northern State is a team trying to stay out of last place in the conference, while Mary is the up-and-comer, needing to knock off a team from above in the standings to mark their improvement.

The Mavericks are a little more healthy this weekend. Freshman center Connor O'Brien missed last week's game with a sprained ankle but should be able to play, and guard Jimmy Whitehead, who took a nasty spill in last week's game, is also expected to play, though he has a bruised rib.

Minnesota State was one of only two teams to win at Mary last season, and you know the gym will be packed. Mary still has an outside shot at winning the conference but will be virtually eliminated with a loss. Mary also is a borderline team in the region so any victory strengthens their case.

Something that won't matter this weekend: Guard Tre Creamer has transferred to Minnesota State and can practice but not play until next season. Creamer, a 6-5 point guard, averaged 13 points last season at Madison (Wis.) Memorial, and he enrolled at John A. Logan junior college but left before joining the basketball team. He has four years of eligibility.

For the women, it looks like Northern State and Mary will be teams that will battle Minnesota State for spots 4 through 7 in the league, and obviously, fourth is better. There could be a home game in the first round of the conference tournament and a possibility of being invited to the national tournament.

Guard Lauren Barber is expected to play after missing five games with a concussion, but Brittany Thiesfeld is doubtful with a concussion. As noted in Friday's print edition, there have been seven different Mavericks to lead the team in scoring, and it will take that kind of balance this weekend.

Northern State is a big team, though the Wolves' 6-2 center apparently injured her knee last week and is done. Mary is a guard-oriented team that likes to shoot 3-pointers, and the Marauders hit 18 3s and scored 111 points in last week's victory over Minnesota Crookston.

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