By Paul Freelend
Shoulders without chips on them will be few and far between when the St. Cloud State and Minnesota State-Mankato’s men’s basketball teams visit the Sapp Fieldhouse with very different agendas.
SCSU comes to Omaha looking to avenge a 102-63 home thrashing at the hands of UNO, while Minnesota-Mankato will be looking to complete a season sweep over the Mavericks. MSM cruised to a 77-59 win over UNO on Jan. 11.
Maverick head coach Kevin McKenna said his team will have to be ready as both opponents will be coming in with a good deal of motivation.
“We played well at St. Cloud State and not so well at Minnesota State,” McKenna said. “At this point in the season, everyone is fighting for their position within the conference. We’re right there at the top with SCSU and Minnesota State is fighting just to get into the NCC tournament, so both teams will be coming in hungry. I hope we’re hungrier.”
SCSU comes into the weekend with a 16-4 record, including an 8-4 record in the North Central Conference that puts them in third place behind UNO. The Huskies were ranked seventh in Division II before their last meeting with the Mavericks.
McKenna, however, pointed to SCSU’s continued success after their loss to UNO and said he did not anticipate seeing a similar effort from the Huskies on Friday.
“If you look at SCSU’s team, you see that they have a lot of quality players,” McKenna said. “They’ll want to show that they aren’t as bad as they were when we played the first time and I don’t think that we’ll see them play that kind of game again. It’s really going to be a battle.”
MSM is 8-12 on the season and its 4-8 conference mark has it currently tied with Augustana for seventh place and the final spot in the NCC post-season tournament. McKenna said that UNO is looking for a bit of redemption, but not bent on revenge.
.”I don’t think that the team is that mad about it,” McKenna said. “I think they’re looking to show each other that we aren’t as bad a team as we showed in Mankato. The result of the game was due to an oversight on our part, I think, but we’ve fixed that and we know that we have to respect every opponent in this league. There’s not a lot of difference between the teams at the top and the bottom of the conference and often the difference between winning and losing can be a couple of lucky breaks here and there.”
Tip-off for both games is scheduled for 8 p.m., following the women’s games.