Originally Published: January 30, 2008
Going into last weekend’s games, it could have been assumed that the Southwest Minnesota State University Mustangs would walk away with two easy wins. After all, the Mustangs’ two opponents combined for an overall record of 9-27 coming into the weekend, including only going 3-15 in conference play. However, these games were anything but easy.
It all started Friday night in the match-up against the Minnesota-Crookston Golden Eagles. The Mustangs struggled shooting throughout the majority of the game. After starting out shooting 9-14 in the first thirteen minutes of play, the Mustangs shot only 8-38 for the rest of the game. SMSU finished the game with a shooting percentage of only 32.7 percent.
Leading the way in scoring for the Mustangs was senior guard Matt Fletcher, who scored 15 points on 5 of 15 shooting. All of Fletcher’s points were from long range as he shot 5-9 behind the arc. The only other Mustang in double digits scoring was junior Ross DeMasi, who scored 10 points on 4-6 shooting. DeMasi and Fletcher also both led the team in rebounds, each grabbing 8.
The Mustangs put defensive pressure on the Golden Eagles, forcing 21 turnovers in the contest. The Mustangs also allowed just one Crookston player to score in double digits. With the Mustang defense only allowing 20 points in the first half of Friday’s game, it was the fifth time this season that the Mustangs have held their opponents to 20 or fewer points in one half. Last season, the team accomplished that feat six times.
On Saturday night, the festive Hawaiian Night crowd in attendance saw another closely contested game. The Bemidji State Beavers actually held a 34-33 lead going into halftime by shooting 59.1 percent from the field, compared to only 33.3 percent for the Mustangs. However, that would quickly change as the Mustangs went on a 14-0 run to begin the second half, capped of with a fastbreak lay-up by junior guard Andy Beilke. Up 47-34 with 14 minutes left, the Mustangs were able to apply some of its defensive pressure, cutting the Beavers’ field goal percentage from 59 percent in the first half to just 43 percent in the second.
Southwest was led in scoring by Fletcher, who scored 14 points on 5-13 shooting, including just 2-9 from 3-point range. Sophomore Kevin Andrews, junior Ryan Krome and DeMasi were the other Mustangs in double digits, scoring 13, 12 and 10, respectively. DeMasi also added 10 rebounds to his 10-point performance for his fourth double-double this season.
Krenske only scored 3 points on Saturday but they were important ones. With 1:32 left in the first half, Krenske hit a 3-pointer to give the Mustangs the 2-point lead. Not only did those points give Southwest the lead but they also helped Krenske reach an important milestone in his collegiate career. Krenske became the fifteenth player in SMSU history to score 1,000 points in his career.
After these two victories last weekend, the Mustangs improve to a record of 12-8, including a record of 7-4 in NSIC play. This weekend, the Mustangs travel up north for a pair of conference road games. On Friday, the Mustangs are in Bismarck, N.D., for a game against the University of Mary. Saturday’s game is against Northern State University and will be played in Aberdeen, S.D. Both men’s games are scheduled to start at 8 p.m. and will be preceded by the Mustang women’s team facing the same opponents.