Prior to a loss to the Willmar Cardinals on Jan. 15, the Marshall boys' basketball team rattled off 11-consecutive wins. Included in that stretch was a 73-36 dismantling of the Mankato East Cougars on Dec. 26 in Marshall.
On Saturday, the Tigers and Cougars faced off again with Marshall looking to start a new winning streak. What the Tigers found in their 73-56 win over the Cougars in Mankato was an East team that had closed much of the gap in just under a month.
"Mankato East is much improved," Marshall head coach Travis Carroll said. "They played us pretty well. It was tied at halftime and our guys did well in the second half. They stuck with it and ended up pulling away towards the end of the game, but, like I said, Mankato East has improved a lot since the first time we saw them."
One area of Mankato East's improvement was shooting, especially from 3-point range. Cougar senior Yasin Omar, in particular, went 7-for-10 from deep on his way to a game-high 27 points. The Cougars, in fact, found several areas of Marshall's defense to exploit during the game. If not for one of the best shooting games of the season for the Tigers and 42 second-half points, Mankato East may well have started Marshall on a losing streak.
"We gave up 14 offensive rebounds, so that's a pretty big number," Carroll said. "They had 49 shots and we took a total of 40, so we gave them nine extra possessions. I think we ended up shooting 70 percent for the whole game, so offensively I think it was one of our most effective games of the year."
While shooting 70 percent from the floor, the Tigers saw five players reach double digits in scoring and a sixth finish with eight points.
Aaron Mathiowetz 4 4-5 12, Hunter Peterson 4 2-4 13, Austin Saugstad 5 2-3 12, Derek Buysse 5 0-4 11, Riley Sharbono 3 2-2 8, Tanner Bukowski 5 3-3 15. Totals 28 13-21 73. 3-pointers 4 Rebounds 24 (Mathiowetz 5, Saugstad 5) Assists 18 (Sharbono 5, Bukowski 4, Peterson 4) Steals 9 (Saugstad 3, Sharbono 3) Blocks 1 Turnovers 11 Total Fouls 14.
Mankato East (56)
Brock Margenthaler 1 0-0 2, Mattu Chuol 4 2-2 10, Jordan Grams 1 0-0 2, Brandon Adema 5 0-0 10, Yasin Omar 8 4-4 27, Matt Bornholdt 1 3-4 5. Totals 20 9-10 56. 3-pointers 7 (Omar 7) Rebounds 21 (Adema 6) Assists 8 Steals 2 Blocks 0 Turnovers 13 Total Fouls 20.
Halftime Score: Marshall 31, Mankato East 31.
Tanner Bukowski led all Tigers with 15 points, while Hunter Peterson had 13. Aaron Mathiowetz and Austin Saugstad each had 12 points, and Derek Buysse had 11 points in his first game back after sustaining an injury.
"Derek was good, he was playing hard and kind of getting back into rhythm," Carroll said. "It was good to see him play well."
The Tigers, ranked 10th in Class AAA, improved to 12-2 on the season with the win. Next up for Marshall is a Southwest Conference home game on Tuesday with Jackson County Central, a team the Tigers throttled 80-50 in Jackson on Dec. 18. Marshall players and coaches are expecting to find that Jackson, just like Mankato East, has significantly improved since their last meeting.
"The first time we played Jackson they were missing a starter, so we know they will be a lot better than the first time we played," Carroll said. "The starter they were missing is a pretty important player, so we know that we will see a different Jackson team just as we saw a different Mankato team. We've just got to go out and play hard and execute on the defensive end."