The Minnesota State Mavericks started their season off hot Thursday with an exhibition game win against Gustavus Adolphus. In their first meeting since 1988, the Mavericks dominated the Golden Gusties, 100-58.
The energy from the Mavericks and their fans was evident, and this game was everything they could have asked for in their unofficial home opener.
The Mavericks debuted a starting lineup that included a backcourt of Trevor Moore and Malik Willingham, wings Brady Williams and Kyrese Willingham, and Kelby Kramer at center.
Kramer won the tip and, with that, the Mavs were off. In their first possession, senior transfer Moore knocked down a three-pointer off a rebound from Kramer to give the Mavs their first points of the season. The Mavs never lost the lead.
Texas native Moore has played four seasons in the NCAA ranks, two seasons with the University of Cincinnati Bearcats and two with the Morgan State University Bears. He showed confidence in his shot Thursday, introducing himself to the Mavericks and their fans to the tune of four threes and did not shy away from pulling the trigger on his shots.
Junior M. Willingham brought the energy on the defensive end early and often, getting in the passing lanes and disrupting the Golden Gusties’ offense all night. Picking up five steals on the night, M. Willingham was the catalyst for defense leading to transition offense and easy points for the Mavs. However, it was his fluidity and confidence on the offensive end that stood out from M. Willingham. He picked up a majority of his points from beyond the arc, and was on fire from deep in the second half.
While M. Willingham and Moore were lighting it up from deep, sophomore forward Williams showed a lot of offensive talent himself, showing off his concentration around the rim and finishing well through contact. He also found success on the defensive end, forcing countless turnovers and starting fast breaks that led to Maverick points.
As for Kramer, his impact may not have shown up on the stat sheet, but his sheer presence in the paint gave the Golden Gusties fits as they tried to run their offense through the post. He and M. Willingham also brought Lob City to the Taylor Center, with Kramer finishing off some greatly placed lobs from Willingham with two dunks.
In the exhibition match, 15 players took the court for the Mavericks and made the most of their minutes. A pair of sophomores in guard Harrison Braudis and forward Tyrell Stuttley added 8 points each and look forward to bigger roles this season. The freshmen duo of Malcolm Jones and Hamahrie Bowers brought energy and excitement to the arena with some highlight plays. The 6’8” Jones knocked down a pair of threes and blocked two Golden Gustie shot attempts. Meanwhile, Bowers capped off the win with a steal and an exclamation point of a dunk to put the Mavericks in triple figures for the night.
Regarding their performance, head coach Matthew Margenthaler was impressed by their ability to play as a team.
“One stat that stuck out in my mind was that we had 26 assists to 8 turnovers,” said Margenthaler. “That’s team basketball and that’s how we have to play. We have to be selfless, and if we do that, we are going to be okay.”
With an entertaining, action-packed night in the Taylor Center, basketball is officially back. The Mavericks look ahead to five straight road games, with the next one coming in Kansas City, Missouri, where they will take on the Missouri Southern Lions. Game time for the Mavericks and Lions is set for 1 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 11.
“It was great to be back in the Taylor Center, for us to have an exhibition before the regular season gets going is big,” said Margenthaler. “We aren’t there yet, but we’re getting there.”
Write to Hayden Lee at Hayden.Lee@mnsu.edu