As the lone senior on the Winona State men's basketball team this season, Caleb Wagner has carried the load more often than not.
Saturday evening inside McCown Gymnasium was no different as Wagner led all players with 29 points in a hard-fought 68-56 victory over Southwest Minnesota State University.
After suffering a 51-49 setback to Sioux Falls on Friday, it was another sluggish offensive night for the Warriors who trailed by as many as eight points to the Mustangs in the second half.
With 5:52 remaining in the second frame, Wagner slashed through the lane for a successful and-one which gave WSU a 54-52 advantage — the home team’s first lead since holding a 29-28 edge at halftime. The senior proceeded to score seven consecutive points as Winona State refused to relinquish the lead down the stretch.
Wagner scored 21 of his 29 points amid the Warriors’ second-half rally.
Winona State shot a season-worst 3-for-28 from downtown on Friday night and looked to put that slump behind them early Saturday as Wagner opened the game with a triple and the Warriors collectively hit three of their first four attempts from beyond the arc.
However, the Warriors hit a wall again and went into halftime shooting just 4-for-11 from three-point land.
Winona State hung in the first half thanks to eight points and seven rebounds by Kevion Taylor, who finished the game with 20 points and 10 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the year.
The Warrior defense also held SMSU to a 2-for-7 effort from downtown in the first half and 6-for-17 for the night.
The two sides each pulled down 20 rebounds with the Warriors corralling nine offensive boards which translated into 10 second-chance points. Winona State also forced 14 Mustang turnovers and cashed those miscues into 19 points.
Winona State improves to 15-11 (12-8 NSIC) with the triumph and sends SMSU to a record of 7-19 (4-16 NSIC).
The Warriors wrap up the regular season next weekend with pivotal NSIC South games at Concordia-St. Paul and Minnesota State Mankato.
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