The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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March 2, 2013

MSU men pull away from Dragons

Marei with 16 points and 14 rebounds in tournament win

MANKATO — There were about six minutes remaining, and Minnesota State center Assem Marei had just made a steal.

He grabbed the basketball near midcourt and headed for the basket. Coach Matt Margenthaler yelled at him to slow down.

Too late. The Mavericks’ sophomore had already pushed his team to a lopsided victory.

“I think he was frustrated in the first half, and I just told him that he has to man up,” Margenthaler said. “He did that in the second half. He didn’t worry about things he can’t control. He’s so much better when he focuses on what he can control.”

Marei had 16 points and a season-high 14 rebounds as the Mavericks pulled away in the second half, downing Minnesota State-Moorhead 87-63 in the quarterfinals of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference men’s basketball tournament Saturday at Bresnan Arena. It was as close to 40 minutes of good basket ball as the Mavericks have played all season.

“At both ends, we played very well,” Marei said. “Our chemistry was good.”

Minnesota State started the game making everything. Once the Mavericks’ defense got engaged in the action, the Dragons were in trouble, making only one of their final 11 shots in the first half.

“The first half, they’re shooting was impressive,” Marei said. “We did what we needed to do.”

The Mavericks had a 43-32 lead at halftime, with the chance of burying the Dragons. But some lackadaisical defense allowed Moorhead to reel off 10 points, pulling within 1 in three minutes.

“I thought we just started running and gunning,” Margenthaler said. “We just needed to get back to playing defense. Our bench was a key factor in both halves. They really sparked us after a stagnant start (to the second half).”

Jarvis Williams hit two free throws to end the streak, and the Mavericks regrouped. The lead was back to eight at the 10-minute mark when the Mavericks went on a 13-0 run. Marei scored five baskets in the lane, then assisted on Gage Wooten’s layup as the lead grew to 80-55 with four minutes remaining.

Zach Monaghan made four 3-pointers and ended up with 14 points and six assists, with an alley-oop to Williams and Lucas Brown in the final 12 minutes.

Minnesota State, which shot 54.5 percent, had a 50-20 advantage in points in the paint, and the Mavericks’ bench outscored the Dragons’ reserves by 19.

“I thought playing together and defensively, that’s as good as we’ve played in a long time,” Margenthaler said. “That’s the energy and effort we’re going to need as we move forward.”

Anthony Tucker paced the Dragons with 16 points, while Alex Novak had 13 points and nine rebounds. Minnesota State-Moorhead made only 11 of its final 41 shots, ending up at 37.9 percent.

Minnesota State (24-4) faces Northern State in the tournament semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Rochester. The Mavericks, seeded No. 1 in the Central Region may need to win the conference tournament to host the regional.

“Now that we’re there, we want to win it,” Margenthaler said.

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