The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

January 12, 2013

Fast start lifts MSU men to 87-64 victory

MANKATO — A rare explosive start Saturday night at Bresnan Arena carried the Minnesota State men’s basketball team to a convincing 87-64 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference win over Minnesota State-Moorhead in front of 1,682 fans.

Sophomore guard Zach Monaghan and junior forward Connor O’Brien’s aggressive play ignited a game-opening 21-4 surge as Minnesota State snapped the Dragons’ eight-game winning streak. O’Brien put through a pair of inside baskets and two foul shots while Monaghan netted nine points — a pull-up 3-pointer, a twisting transition hoop off an Assem Marei block and two layups off steals — in the six-minute stretch.

“I think the guys knew how important this game was and made it a statement game,” Mavericks’ coach Matt Margenthaler said. “You play the North Division teams only once so you have to take care of business at home. We set the tone from the start defensively and I thought our defensive effort really jump-started our offense.”

“Zach and Jayme (Moten) really pushed the tempo for 40 minutes and we’ve got the wings who can go. We finished around the basket very well and our bench is so special. ... Everyone has accepted their roles and I couldn’t be happier.”

Moorhead (13-2 overall, 7-2 in NSIC) trimmed the Mavericks’ cushion to 21-11 before Zach Romaschko’s baseline 3-pointer triggered a 19-7 burst that produced a 40-18 margin when junior guard Jimmy Whitehead nailed a top-of-the-key 3-pointer. Whitehead connected on all three of his 3-point attempts in finishing with 13 points and three rebounds.

Marei, a 6-foot-9 sophomore post from Cairo, Egypt, was impressive around the basket in collecting 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots. Senior guard Jarvis Williams showed off his all-around skills in firing in a team-best 21 points, including 7 of 8 from the foul line, while Monaghan finished with 13 points, six assists and three steals.

“We knew if we jumped on them right away we could take their hearts away,” Williams said. “They have three really good guards who can score so we wanted to contain them and when we did that everything fell into place. We’re a transition team so we have to take advantage of that and we really connected on that.”

Marei’s three-point play and Williams’ fastbreak basket off assists from Monaghan opened the second-half scoring before O’Brien’s tip-in and four free throws from Williams extended the margin to 53-29. O’Brien ended up with 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots for the winners, who connected on 32 of 61 from the field for 52.5 percent and won the boards 39-33.

Minnesota State (12-1, 8-1) turned the ball over only five times compared to the Dragons’ 13. The Mavericks totaled 16 assists in the contest and hit on 17 of 19 foul shots for 89.5 percent. Freshman guard Tyler Vaughan led the Dragons with 21 points, including five 3-pointers while Anthony Tucker chipped in with 12 points and six rebounds.

“We’ve got good chemistry and great depth,” Marei said. “We kept swinging the ball side to side and everything worked out for us. “Transition is a big part of our game, too, and we’ve got 12 players who can play the game.”

Minnesota State seeks its seventh straight win Tuesday when it travels to Concordia-St. Paul.

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