The men’s basketball team pushed their single season win record to 29, winning in the first two rounds of the Division II NCAA Tournament before falling to cross town rival Metro State 73-64 in the round of sixteen, Tuesday, March 13, at Lockridge Arena.
Mines opened the tournament with impressive wins over Augustana (South Dakota) University and Southwestern Minnesota State in front of a packed Lockridge Arena to become the first team in school history to advance to the round of sixteen in the national tournament.
Leading up to the regional championship game against Metro, Mines had pushed their win streak to 17 games and were a perfect 18-0 in home games. With Mines a number one seed, they were one of eight teams across the nation to host an eight team regional playoff. The winner from each region would then advance to the elite eight in Kentucky against the remaining regional champions.
As a result, Lockridge hosted eight teams from Minnesota, South Dakota, and Colorado to compete for the right to represent the region in Kentucky. The event was one of the largest sporting events to be hosted by Lockridge in its brief history, and featured packed crowds in all of the game played there.
In the first round, Mines was fueled by solid free throw shooting which propelled them past the scrappy, eighth-seeded Augustana Vikings. Heading in to his final few games as an Oredigger, senior Dale Minschwaner said that his mentality was very simple. “Win. I did not want to lose this first game on our court, and [have] this be my last game. I didn’t want that, so I kind of took the mentality of being aggressive.” And aggressive he was, turning in one of his best performances at home this year, leading the Orediggers with 23 points and guiding them into the second round of the tournament.
With the win, Mines earned a second round matchup against Minnesota State University Moorehead, who had just earned a convincing win the night before over rival Southwestern Minnesota University. With the Dragon’s starting forward, Alex Novak, in foul trouble early, Mines used its size to dominate MSUM, cruising to a 80-60 victory and earning the program’s first ever bid into the regional championship game. The Orediggers were led in scoring by CSM junior and RMAC Player of the Year Brett Green with 18 points.
The sweet sixteen round against Metro State was the third meeting between the two conference rivals, and Mines was looking for a perfect 3-0 sweep of the Roadrunners this season. But after losing to the number one ranked Orediggers in the first two meetings, Metro State roared out to an early 13-0 lead before Mines even cracked the scoreboard. The Orediggers battled back with a 19-6 run of their own to tie the game, but the Roadrunners shot well all night long with an impressive 50% from the floor including 6-12 from three point range.
Mines kept Metro in reach, but could not quite mount enough of a comeback to pull out the win. In the end, after winning 17 straight games, going 18-0 at home, and rising to the team’s first ever number one national ranking, the Orediggers’ season came to an abrupt halt, ending a few games earlier than they would have hoped.
But the third round loss was far from a disappointing season for Mines, which only three years earlier had never even appeared in the national tournament, much less hosted the regional and advanced to regional championship.
Two years ago, the Orediggers earned their first trip to the dance, and as an eight seed fought hard, but fell to top-seeded Minnesota State Mankato. The following year, they took it one step further, earning the team’s first ever tournament win, beating Adams State 62-59 before falling to Fort Lewis in the second round. And this season, they continued the uphill climb, setting program records across the board. The became only the second team in CSM history to be ranked number one in the nation after the men’s soccer team achieved the feat in 2010. They became the first basketball team to host one of the eight regional tournaments. They became the first CSM basketball team to win two NCAA Tournament games and reach the regional championship. And while seniors Minschwaner, Chris Goutama, Jacob Case, and Gordon Galloway will surely be missed, this is a young and talented team that looks to pick up next season right where they left off.