The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

December 7, 2012

MSU knocks off preseason No. 1 Winona State

MANKATO — Jarvis Williams could have had at least 20 points in the first half if he could have converted from point-blank range.

But with 5:40 to play, he was streaking down the right side of the court, took a pass from Jimmy Whitehead and tomahawked a vicious dunk.

“That felt good,” Williams said. “The first half, I missed so many bunnies. Coaches told me to keep shooting; those shots were gonna fall. I kept my confidence high.”

Minnesota State had some trouble shooting in the lane, but a spirited rebounding effort allowed the Mavericks to claim a 78-70 victory over Winona State in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference men’s basketball game Friday at Bresnan Arena.

The Mavericks had a 43-35 advantage in rebounding, but it was 19 offensive rebounds that allowed Minnesota State to stay in the game.

“We have great length and very good athletes,” coach Matt Margenthaler said. “We have guys with a knack for the ball. We’ve been struggling at the offensive end, but we’re too good of an offensive team to keep struggling like this.”

The Mavericks shot only 35.1 percent in the first half but led for all but 30 seconds. Williams had eight points but was 3 of 11 from the field with six offensive rebounds.

“I was a little frustrated,” Williams said. “But I know I can make those shots. But I got over it, and we came away with the victory.”

Winona State, whom the league’s coaches selected as the preseason favorite, took its biggest lead at 50-46 with 13:40 to play, but the Mavericks answered with nine straight, started by Williams’ knifing drive from the left wing.

Connor O’Brien made consecutive field goals, including a monster dunk on the fast break that helped the Mavericks push the lead to 61-53. But Xavier Humphrey scored nine straight points as the Warriors (6-3, 0-2 in Northern Sun) regained a three-point lead at 6:25.

Williams’ dunk highlighted a nine-point burst, and the Mavericks stayed ahead by hitting free throws for the physical, intense victory.

“The referees are letting us play, and we have the team that can play that way,” Margenthaler said. “We have to learn to finish through contact.”

Williams ended up with 17 points and 10 rebounds, his third double-double of the season. Zach Monaghan had 17 points and six assists, and Assem Marei had nine points and 10 rebounds. Connor O’Brien added 10 points and seven boards.

“This is the way this conference is, and I like playing physical,” Williams said.

Minnesota State (6-0, 2-0) plays its third straight home game today against Upper Iowa, beginning at 8 p.m.

“It was nice to get the win tonight, but we have to come back against a veteran Upper Iowa team and do it again,” Margenthaler said. “If we don’t win (tonight), the weekend will be wasted.”

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