The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

February 23, 2013

MSU downs SW Minnesota State, wins league title

MANKATO — Jarvis Williams came to Minnesota State for one season of basketball and, in his final home game of the regular season, delivered one of his best performances.

“Jarvis was in attack mode all night,” said Minnesota State coach Matt Margenthaler, who spent the second half in the locker room with what he thought might be a case of food poisoning. “We just cleared the floor and gave him space. When things didn’t go well, he just kept attacking.”

Williams had 21 points and five assists as the Mavericks defeated Southwest Minnesota State 85-75 in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference men’s basketball game Saturday at Bresnan Arena. The victory allowed Minnesota State to claim the conference championship and No. 1 seed for the league tournament when Winona State lost 81-78 in overtime at Augustana.

Williams, the Mavericks’ only senior, was honored before the game, and the entire team came onto the court with him. It was a sign of team unity that proved to be the theme of the game, as the Mavericks had 20 assists on 36 field goals.

“I tried to treat this as just another game,” Williams said. “We showed what we could do when we play together and play for each other.

“When we’re attacking, we’re tough to stop. If they stop me, other guys were open.”

The Mavericks got up 23-10 after 11 minutes, but the Mustangs got back within 32-29 in the final minute of the half. However, Williams’ dunk allowed the Mavericks to go up by 5 at the break.

Assem Marei and Connor O’Brien each had two baskets, all coming from assists, as the Mavericks jumped ahead 42-31 after three minutes of the second half. Though Southwest’s Jordan Miller got hot, hitting three 3-pointers, the Mavericks matched every challenge.

When the Mustangs closed within 56-50 with 10 minutes to play, the Mavericks went on a 19-9 run, capped by Zach Monaghan’s feed to Marei for a one-handed dunk.

“We knew this team wasn’t going to give up,” Williams said. “We had to be ready to go in the second half, and we started it strong.”

The biggest lead of 85-67 came on Williams’ final basket with a minute to go, and the Mavericks were able to begin the celebration, shooting 81.5 percent (22 of 27) in the second half.

“I just wanted to go out there and think about the big picture,” Williams said. “I wanted the team to be successful and win a conference championship.”

Marei had 17 points and seven rebounds, and Monaghan finished with 12 points and eight assists. O’Brien scored 12.

“Before the game, (former Mavericks player) Cameron Hodges talked to our team about the 2010 championship,” Margenthaler said. “He told the players to look to their right, and play for that player.

“That’s what we did tonight. We really showed the fire we’ve been looking for.”

The Mavericks (21-4, 17-4 in Northern Sun) host Minnesota Crookston at 8 p.m. Wednesday in the opening round of the Northern Sun Tournament. The quarterfinals are Saturday at the top seed, and the semifinals and finals will be held at Rochester on March 8-9.

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