MEN’S BASKETBALL: Mavs run past ‘Stangs

MANKATO, Minn. No. 22 Minnesota State outscored Southwest Minnesota State 14-2 in the final five minutes and 15 seconds to erase a three-point deficit and earn a hard-fought 77-68 victory on Friday night in NSIC men’s basketball at the Taylor Center.

The game featured eight ties and 20 lead changes as Minnesota State maintained in a first place tie in the conference, improving to 20-4 overall, 14-3 NSIC. Southwest Minnesota State drops to 14-9 overall, 11-6 NSIC.

“Both teams were very physical and rebounded the basketball very well at different times of the game,” SMSU head coach Brad Bigler said. “For the most part, it was a grind-it-out kind of game. Minnesota State was able to make a little bit of a run late in the second half, when we had a few turnovers and a couple of missed opportunities. They were able to extend it with a foul and made the free throws.”

Matt Zager led the Mustangs with a season-high 23 points connecting on a career-high 10 field goals, including three 3-pointers. Zager’s final 3-pointer of the game gave Southwest Minnesota State a 66-63 lead with 5:30 left in the game before the Mavericks answered with the game-turning run to close the game and earn its third straight victory over Southwest Minnesota State.

William Giddings was the only other Mustang to score double figures with 17 points on 6 of 8 shooting with three 3-pointers. Southwest Minnesota State ended the night shooting 44 percent (27 of 62) from the field and committed 10 turnovers. The Mustangs were just 6 of 8 from the free throws line.

“Matt and Will were able to take advantage of matchups and by attacking the rim,” Bigler said. “Will was able to catch-and-shoot from the perimeter.”

Minnesota State was paced by Zach Monaghan who scored a team-high 23 points and added 11 assists. He entered the game leading Division II in assists with 184. Assem Marei contributed 21 points, six rebounds and six blocked shots for the Mavericks.

“I was a little disappointed with our defensive breakdowns, especially on Zach Monaghan, who is a very good player,” Bigler said. “Those breakdowns allowed him to get going (with his shooting). We made the mistake of shooting the ball too early in the shot clock at the end of the first half and that led to Monaghan hitting a 3-pointer at the other end. That play really gave Minnesota State some momentum.”

Southwest Minnesota State led for much of the game’s first 7 1/2 minutes – including holding a five-point lead three different times – before Minnesota State’s Monaghan connected with a 3-pointer to give the Mavericks a 16-15 advantage with 12:24 remaining.

Minnesota State held a 22-18 lead with 10:28 left before the Mustangs rallied with a 9-1 run to take a 27-23 lead at the 7:27 mark following a 3-pointer by Joey Bartlett. Southwest Minnesota State maintained the lead for the next 4 minutes until Monaghan drilled another 3-pointer to give the Mavericks a 32-31 lead. Monaghan closed the half with his third 3-pointer to give Minnesota State a 40-37 halftime lead.

The Mustangs started the second half strong, putting together an 8-0 run that was capped by a three-point play by Giddings to give Southwest Minnesota State its largest lead of the game at 51-45 with 14:17 left. The Mavericks closed to within 53-52 before Shaun Condon drilled a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 56-52 at the 11:11 mark.

Minnesota State came right back and regained the lead on an Alex Hanks 3-pointer with 10:11 left to make the score 57-56. The Mavericks built a 61-58 lead with 7:30 left on a pair of Monaghan free throws, but Giddings answered on Southwest Minnesota State’s next possession with a 3-pointer to tie the game at 61.

Marei regained the lead for Minnesota State with a dunk, before Condon hit a pair of free throws with 6:17 left to tie the game for the eighth time at 63-63. Following a turnover by Minnesota State, Zager answered with his final 3-pointer to give Southwest Minnesota State its three-point lead at 66-63, before Minnesota State countered with its final run to earn the victory.

“I thought we made a lot of mental mistakes throughout the game and we haven’t made those kind of mistakes (this season) on the defensive end,” Bigler said.


SOUTHWEST MINNESOTA STATE (14-8 OVERALL, 11-5 NSIC): William Giddings 6-8 2-3 17, Vinard Birch 1-10 0-0 2, Mitch Weg 2-4 0-0 4, Shaun Condon 2-7 4-4 9, Travis Meinders 0-2 0-0 0, Joey Bartlett 3-6 0-0 7, Matt Zager 10-14 0-1 23 , Nick Smith 3-11 0-0 6. TOTALS: 27-62 (43.5%) 6-8 (75%) 68.

MINNESOTA STATE (19-4 OVERALL, 13-3 NSIC): Alex Hanks 1-3 0-2 3, Zach Monaghan 6-9 8-8 23, Tanner Adler 2-7 0-0 6, Gage Wooten 4-7 1-2 10, Zach Romashko 1-3 2-3 4, Connor O’Brien 3-7 1-2 7, TJ Okafor 1-3 1-2 3, Assem Marei 9-16 3-5 21.TOTALS: 27-55 (49.1%) 16-24 (66.7%) 77.

HALFTIME: MSU 40, SMSU 37. 3-POINT FIELD GOALS: SMSU 8-17 (Giddings 3, Zager 3); MSU 7-14 (Monaghan 3). REBOUNDS: SMSU 35 (Smith 10, Weg 8); MSU 36 (Okafor 7, Marei 6). TOTAL FOULS (FOULED OUT): SMSU 18; MSU 8. TECHNICAL FOULS: None. ASSISTS: SMSU 9 (Birch 3); MSU 18 (Monaghan 11). STEALS: SMSU 4 (Smith 2); MSU 5. BLOCKED SHOTS: SMSU 2 (Smith 1, Bartlett 1); MSU 7 (Marei 6). TURNOVERS: SMSU 10; MSU 7.