The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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November 25, 2013

MSU pulls away from Dakota State with BIG 2ND HALF

Mavericks end nonconference schedule at 6-1, Northern Sun begins Saturday

MANKATO — The Minnesota State men's basketball team played three good Division II teams at the season-opening Disney Classic at California.

The last four nonconference games have posed few problems and the result was four victories, with an average margin of about 30 points.

"We know we can't look past these teams," senior Gage Wooten said. "We know we have to win these games first, but now it's prime time, conference games."

A big second half, and 26 points from junior Zach Romashko, allowed Minnesota State to end the nonconference schedule with a 95-71 victory over Dakota State on Monday at Bresnan Arena. Now, the Mavericks open play in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference on Saturday.

"Everyone's ready to play (league games)," coach Matt Margenthaler said. "We played three very good teams in California, and then we had four non-Division II games, but I'm happy with how the guys handled it. We got better each game."

Romashko got off to a fast start with 13 points in the first half, making 3 of 4 from 3-point range, but the Maverick led just 37-35.

However, the Mavericks gradually pulled away in the second half, using a 19-2 run to go up 61-41 at 12:45. After a short run by Dakota State, a 12-point run opened the lead to 82-57 with four minutes to play. The Mavericks shot 58.5 percent in the second half with 14 assists, after shooting 33.3 percent with eight assists in the first half.

"We had some good looks in the first half, but we didn't knock 'em down," Margenthaler said. "Our wings were 3 of 16 shooting in the first half, and we knew they weren't going to be 3 of 16 in the second half. We also got a lot more consistent on the defensive end."

The biggest issue to come out of the nonconference schedule was the injury to junior center Assem Marei, who missed the last three games with a sprained ankle. He's expected to return to practice today.

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