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Chad Courrier / Mankato Free Press, Published March 02 2013

Dragons fall to MSU-Mankato in NSIC men's quarterfinals

MANKATO, Minn. – There were about six minutes remaining, and Minnesota State-Mankato 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 basketball as the Mavericks have played all season.

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

Minnesota State-Mankato started the game making everything. Once the Mavericks defense got engaged in the action, the Dragons were in trouble, making only 1 of their final 11 shots in the first half.

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

The Mavericks had a 43-32 lead at halftime. But some lackadaisical defense allowed Minnesota State Moorhead to reel off 10 points, pulling within one 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 with 14 points and six assists, with alley-oops to Williams and Lucas Brown in the final 12 minutes.

MSU-Mankato, which shot 54.5 percent, had a 50-20 advantage in points in the paint, and the Mavericks’ bench outscored the Dragons’ 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 their final 41 shots, ending at 37.9 percent.

MSU MOORHEAD (19-11): Tucker 5-11 4-4 16, Novak 6-13 1-2 13, Riewer 4-15 1-2 12, Olson 2-4 3-3 7, Vaughan 2-10 0-0 5, Holt 2-3 2-2 8, Figini 1-2 0-0 2, Filipek 0-0 0-0 0, Sevlie 0-0 0-0 0, Wohler 0-0 0-0 0, Akason 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-58 11-13 63.

MSU-MANKATO (24-4): Marei 7-12 2-5 16, Monaghan 5-9 0-0 14, Wooten 5-10 2-2 13, Williams 4-10 3-3 11, O’Brien 2-6 0-0 4, Romashko 5-8 0-0 11, Whitehead 4-6 0-0 9, Moten 3-4 0-0 7, Brown 1-1 0-0 2, Hanks 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 36-66 7-10 87.

Half: Mankato 43, Moorhead 32. 3-point goals: Moorhead 8-23 (Riewer 3-7, Tucker 2-7, Holt 2-2, Vaughan 1-7), Mankato 8-17 (Monaghan 4-6, Wooten 1-4, Moten 1-2, Whitehead 1-2, Romashko 1-1, O’Brien 0-2). Total fouls: Moorhead 11, Mankato 12. Rebounds: Moorhead 29 (Novak 9), Mankato 26 (Marei 9). Assists: Moorhead 8 (Riewer 3), Mankato 19 (Monaghan 6). Steals: Moorhead 3 (three tied with 1), Mankato 8 (three tied with 2). Turnovers: Moorhead 15, Mankato 9. A: 1,365.