By Denny Weller
Special to The Free Press
Minnesota State’s 3-point barrage and suffocating man-to-man defense over the first 20 minutes Friday night fueled a 73-59 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference win over Wayne State at Bresnan Arena.
Sophomore guard Zach Monaghan fired in four 3-pointers as the Mavericks drained 6 of 10 from beyond the arc in building a 33-16 halftime lead. Monoghan’s final triple — a top-of-the-key swish off a spin move — just beat the shot clock and produced the final points of the half.
Minnesota State (16-1, 12-1 in Northern Sun) led 21-16 with just seven minutes to go in the first half when senior guard Jarvis Williams’ two foul shots ignited a half-ending 12-0 burst. Williams added another hoop in the surge while Zach Romaschko buried a triple and senior guard Jimmy Whitehead put through an elbow pull-up.
“We really got after them defensively early,” Mavericks coach Matt Margenthaler said. “Our offense is all related to our defense. If we can keep defending, rebounding the basketball and creating turnovers, then our offense will go.
“We kept them out of the paint and did a good job of playing the gaps. We made them make contested shots, and we really rebounded the ball. It’s human nature to let up a little bit with a big lead like that, but our guys came right back and put it out of reach.”
Margenthaler was referring to the Wildcats (12-7, 6-7) trimming the lead to 53-40 behind a 13-0 spurt with 7:43 remaining. However, Williams’ seven-point flurry — five free throws and a slicing drive to the cup — along with a three-point play and inside hoop from sophomore forward Assem Marei ended the threat.
“Defense has been our emphasis in practice this week,” said Williams, who ended up with 23 points and five rebounds. “I was patient and let things go, and in the second half, things opened up for me. We knew once we got it to our posts we could kick it out against their zone and find our shooters on the wings.
“We got kind of lazy with the big lead, but we stayed with it and got back to our roots. We played the gaps very well and were able to run their 3-point shooters off the line. We really wanted to step up and be aggressive defensively.”
Monaghan finished with 14 points and five assists as the Mavericks won their 10th straight contest. Marei scored 11 of his 12 points in the second half while grabbing a team-best six boards. Whitehead came off the bench to chip in nine points, three rebounds and two assists.
Wayne State was led by Derrell Williams with 17 points and eight rebounds. Jordan Holdsworth totaled 15 points for the ‘Cats, and LaTroy Wright tallied 12 points and eight boards.
Minnesota State, which dominated the glass 37-30, looks to extend its winning streak today when it hosts Augustana at 6 p.m.