Record-setting win sends men’s basketball to Final Four

Fans of the team know that the 2023-24 Minnesota State men’s basketball team can put points on the board in a hurry, but their offensive prowess was on national display Tuesday night.

The Mavericks exploded for a team NCAA Tournament record 98 points as they defeated the Ferris State Bulldogs 98-70, one game after scoring their lowest point total in a win in the Margenthaler era. 

“We knew we were due for one tonight. The shots weren’t dropping for us last game, but we knew that wasn’t us,” Malik Willingham said. “It wasn’t easy beating a team by that much, but we give a lot of credit to our defense and our scouting.”

With the win, the Mavericks will move onto the Final Four, a stage they have been on only once before in 2011, where they lost to Bellarmine. The Mavericks have now won 33 games this year, compared to only two losses. They will get a chance to add another tally in the win column Thursday afternoon, where they will take on West Texas A&M at 3:30 p.m. in the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind.

As for the game itself, the Mavs took control early on and didn’t let the Bulldogs claw their way back into it. The Willingham brothers did the heavy lifting early on as the team took a 19-13 lead with 12:16 left in the first half fueled by 13 points from Malik and six from Kyreese. 

Sweet 16 hero Elijah Hazekamp was the first non-Willingham to get on the board with his first three-pointer of the night to put the Mavs up by 9. He and Kyreese helped the Mavericks build up a ten point lead that forced a timeout from FSU.

The timeout did not halt any momentum on the side of the Mavericks, as they went on a 16-6 run to go up by 20 points with just under four minutes left in the half, 40-20. They would not let the lead slide below 17 points for the rest of the half, taking a 51-32 lead heading into the locker rooms.

The Mavs had one of their best offensive showings of the season in the first half of Tuesday’s game. Kyreese Willingham was the team’s leading scorer with 16, while Malik Willingham followed closely behind with 13. As a team, the Mavericks shot 56.3% from the field and an insane 63.6% (7/11) from three, while holding the Bulldogs to under 38% shooting.

“When you have Malik and Kyreese on your team, it makes my job really, really easy,” head coach Matt Margenthaler said. “We’re a team that is loose and free and a team that just goes out there and hoops.”

The second half began with some resurgence out of the Bulldogs, but they were unable to cut the lead to single digits. Their 10-2 run cut the lead to 53-42, but the Mavs answered by retaking their 20 point lead, 67-47, with 11:56 remaining. The rest of the game was dominated by the Mavs, who led by as many as 34 points before ending in a 98-70 final score.

Kyreese Willingham scored a season-high 25 points (10/13 from the field) to lead the team in scoring, while Malik Willingham scored 21 and had four assists to go along with it. Hazekamp nailed four-of-five three-pointers and finished with 14 points and six rebounds. Dylan Peeters also added five steals and six rebounds. 

Malik, Kyreese and coach Margenthaler all went on record saying that the team plays better when they are having fun together, and their chemistry showed on the court Tuesday night.

“These dudes are more than my teammates to me, they’re like my brothers,” Kyreese Willingham said. “Having that just goes a long way within the team, just knowing that it’s all love and we can hold each other to a high standard.”

Despite being the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ Coach of the Year, head coach Matt Margenthaler gave all of the credit to the guys on his team.

“In basketball, it’s very important to have a coach, but I think sometimes it’s overrated. We have just relaxed more this year and just let our guys play,” Margenthaler said. “This is the most selfless team I have ever coached… we really shared the ball tonight and had a lot of fun.”

Margenthaler did come back around on his statement and said that he “couldn’t be more proud to be the head coach at Minnesota State.”

The Mavs shot 58.5% from the field in the win, while tying their season-high in three pointers made with 14, shooting nearly 61% from beyond the arc. Additionally, the Mavs established new program records in scoring (2,974), three-pointers made (318) and field goals made (1,095). With every win they earn, they are also setting a new record, which now stands at 33.

The next opponent for MSU will be West Texas A&M University, and it will be the first ever meeting between the two teams. The Buffs are coming off of a 90-76 win over North Georgia in the Elite Eight. WT is led offensively by Larry Wise, who is averaging 20.1 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game. As a team, the Buffs average 84.9 ppg, 36.5 rebounds per game and 12.1 assists per game while shooting 47.4% from the field and 38.6% from three.

Tip-off between the Mavs and the Buffs will be at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind.

“We’re here on a business trip. We’re here to win a National Championship,” Malik Willingham said.

Header Photo: The Mavericks bested Ferris State 98-70 in the NCAA Elite Eight and have now won 14 straight games. (Courtesy Maverick Athletics)

Write to Hayden Lee at

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