The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 8, 2014

Mavericks not perfect, but close in easy win

By Chad Courrier
ccourrier@mankatofreepress.com

---- — MANKATO — There can be no perfect game in basketball.

There's always going to be fouls and turnovers, and not every shot will go in. There might even be a missed boxout or a pass the gets deflected.

But Saturday, in the final regular-season home game, Minnesota State played nearly as well as it can.

"No question, this was a great team win," coach Matt Margenthaler said. "Everybody played well, very unselfish and stayed within the game plan. It was a great way to send out their seniors."

The Mavericks shot 60 percent from the field, made 26 assists on 39 field goals and had a 44-39 rebounding advantage in a 109-64 in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference men's basketball game Saturday at Bresnan Arena. It was the final regular-season home game, and the Mavericks went out with their most complete game.

"I think this was our best team win," senior Connor O'Brien said. "Everyone got involved and shared the ball. From a senior's perspective, that shows you the underclassmen were doing it for you, which is pretty cool."

In the first 10 minutes, point guard Zach Monaghan was the show. He scored 16 points, making 4 of 4 from 3-point range. He had two steals that led to fast-break points, and he had two assists, one of which went to O'Brien on a lob.

And the Mavericks led 31-12.

The Mavericks stayed on the gas, pushing the lead to 40-16 on Assem Marei's three-point play. The Mavericks scored the final 12 points of the half to lead 58-25. Monaghan had assists on the final four baskets, and Tanner Adler converted two free throws on a flagrant foul.

The Mavericks shot 70.0 percent in the opening half, which included 6 of 8 shooting from the 3-point line.

"We were rebounding well," O'Brien said. "It helps that Sioux Falls didn't shoot very well, but when we rebound, we get out and run. We built the big lead, and I think (Sioux Falls) gave up a little. But we stuck with it."

The Mavericks had a 23-14 run in the first seven minutes of the second half. The Mavericks had nine 3-pointers and three dunks in the second half to keep an impressive margin over a team with a winning record.

"(Friday night against Southwest Minnesota State) was a grind, but it was also a pivotal win," Margenthaler said. "That gave us a ton of confidence.

"We rebounded the ball really well, and when we do that, we can get out and run. When our transition game is going, we're pretty dang good."

Monaghan ended up with 23 points, eight assists and four steals, and senior Tanner Adler scored 17, making three 3-pointers, to highlight 52 bench points. Zach Romashko made four 3-pointers to end up with 14 points, while fellow reserves T.J. Okafor and Mike Busack had 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Gage Wooten, another senior, scored 12 points and had six rebounds, and O'Brien totalled 11 points.

"We're in a great spot with two weekends left to play," O'Brien said. "It's tough to win on the road, but we're playing well."

The Mavericks (21-4, 15-3 in Northern Sun) finish the regular season with four road games, starting Friday at Bemidji State, which is one game behind Minnesota State in the overall standings.

"You want to win your homes games, but to win the league, you have to win on the road," Margenthaler said. "It's going to be a playoff atmosphere at Bemidji."