The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

February 27, 2013

Point guards pace MSU men in NSIC tournament opener

Mavericks are No. 1 seed in region

MANKATO — Minnesota State has three point guards, and at times, all three were in the game.

But Zach Monaghan, Jimmy Whitehead and Jaymeson Moten are more than just passers. They also can score.

“We haven’t used that lineup a lot, but it’s something we can do to help us defend dribble penetration and getting into transition and perimeter shooting,” Minnesota State coach Matt Margenthaler said. “They all can shoot the ball, and that makes teams come out to guard us.”

The three point guards combined for 43 points as Minnesota State defeated Minnesota Crookston 86-60 in the opening round of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference men’s basketball tournament Wednesday at Bresnan Arena.

Earlier Wednesday, Minnesota State moved into the top spot in the Central Region rankings but will likely need to keep winning tournament games to keep that spot.

“The guys have to realize that every game we play, it could be (the opponents) last game of the season,” Margenthaler said. “Crookston played hard and rebounded well on the offensive glass. In the second half, we had some consecutive stops, and that allowed us to get transition points.”

Monaghan had 12 points in the first half, hitting his first 3-pointer, which seems to be a key for him and the team. But it was Moten who chipped in with three 3-pointers as the Mavericks went up 43-32 a the break.

“When we play with unselfishness, we’re a pretty good team,” Monaghan said. “When we don’t share the ball, that’s when we get stagnant.

“After the loss to Bemidji, we’ve tried to set a better tone at halftime. (Before that), we were too loose and joking around. Now, we stay more focused and keep our heads in the game.”

The Mavericks gradually pulled away in the second half, pushing the lead to 60-43 at the 13-minute mark. A 13-point run, capped by Whitehead’s 3-pointer, made it 80-49 with 6:25 to play. Whitehead had 12 points in the second half.

“We’ll start looking at (the three point guard lineup) more because it keeps team from sagging in the middle,” Margenthaler said. “We’ve got guys who can shoot it, and if teams start to come out, that opens the middle for our bigs.”

Monaghan had 18 points, Whitehead finished with 16 and Moten scored nine. Connor O’Brien had five points and 10 rebounds, helping Minnesota State to a 39-32 rebounding advantage.

Minnesota State (23-4) will host Minnesota State-Moorhead at 2 p.m. Saturday in the tournament quarterfinals. The Mavericks defeated the Dragons 87-64 in January.

“The guys understand that we’re playing for a conference tournament championship, and we’re also playing for a No. 1 seed (in the regional tournament),” Margenthaler said. “It’s going to be here or Winona State, and I’d rather play here.”

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