The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

December 1, 2012

Monaghan comes up big in MSU victory

MANKATO — Zach Monaghan had made a couple shots late in the first half, but the last two he tried were rushed and not within the offense.

It’s a lesson he learned for later in the game.

“Definitely,” the sophomore point guard. “I forced the issue a couple times tonight. At halftime, I was pretty down on myself, but the guys really picked me up and showed confidence in me.”

With the game on the line at the end, Monaghan made better decisions, scoring six of the final 10 points and assisting on another basket as Minnesota State defeated Concordia-St. Paul 76-71 in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference men’s basketball opener Saturday night at Bresnan Arena.

“I think for the first time, it finally dawned on the coaching staff that we have a lot of new guys out there,” coach Matt Margenthaler said. “This is the conference; everything changes.”

What this game lacked in style points, it made up for with intense, physical play. There were 42 fouls called, with 25 on Concordia-St. Paul. The Mavericks shot only 35.4 percent but made up for it with 18 offensive rebounds.

“Coach has been preaching all week that things change in the conference,” Monaghan said. “We have 22 (league games), and none of them are going to be easy.”

The Bears led until a 12-point run put the Mavericks up 26-18 with 5:10 left in the first half. Monaghan had a 10-point run in the final five minutes, but he took a couple of bad shots that allowed Concordia-St. Paul to close within 35-34 at the break.

“We had some good shots that didn’t fall,” Margenthaler said. “We have to get better defensively. We didn’t do a good job of guarding the ball.”

The Mavericks scored the first eight points of the second half, but the Bears responded to every push, going up 59-58 with 6:37 remaining.

However, the Mavericks were more efficient at the end as Monaghan passed on jumpers and went hard to the basket for layups. He then fed Connor O’Brien for a layup, and after O’Brien made a key block at the other end, Monaghan made two free throws that secured the victory with four seconds left.

“This was a good learning experience for our team,” Monaghan said. “It’s going to help us down the road.”

Monaghan finished with 23 points and eight assists and O’Brien had 16 points and seven rebounds. Assem Marei had 13 points and six rebounds.

Minnesota State was plus-8 in rebounding but made only 24 of 34 free throws.  The Mavericks (5-0, 1-0 in Northern Sun) will be home again next weekend, hosting Winona State on Friday and Upper Iowa on Saturday.

“This was a great wakeup call for us,” Margenthaler said. “I think we learned some things tonight, and it’s better to learn and win.”

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