By Denny Weller
Special to The Free Press
A fresh Minnesota State men’s basketball team flexed its muscles Saturday night at Mankato’s Bresnan Arena, overwhelming Minnesota-Duluth 89-54 behind a career-high 26 points from Tanner Adler
Assem Marei had a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference game.
“I thought we were as focused this weekend as we have been all year,” Mavericks coach Matt Margenthaler said. “I think the (Christmas) break was good for us both mentally and physically. We seemed to get our legs back, and mentally we were more in tune to what we were doing. January and February are the months we have to put the work in so we can have fun in March.
“Defensively, I think it was a combination of them not making shots and us getting our arms up to make them shoot contested shots. We mixed our defenses up more than we have all season long. Offensively, we’re shooting the ball real well right now, and we’ve been in a nice flow so hopefully we can stay in that.”
Minnesota State (13-2, 7-1 in NSIC) looked like it would run the Bulldogs off the floor in the early stages as Marei’s six-point, five-rebound flurry led a game-opening 13-4 surge. However, the Bulldogs (5-7, 3-5) stormed back to grab a 14-13 advantage on Peter Crawford’s three-point play and two foul shots from Jordan Reetz with 12:43 remaining.
After Zach Romashko’s elbow jumper regained the lead for the Mavericks, Marei’s two inside baskets along with Connor O’Brien’s transition layup ignited a half-ending 23-14 run that produced a 42-27 lead at the break. Marei poured through 16 first-half points for the Mavericks while Adler and Zach Monaghan netted eight points apiece. Adler dropped through a pair of 3-pointers, and Monaghan drained all six of his foul shots. Minnesota State was a plus-13 at the free-throw line.