Mavericks' undefeated start seems different this season

Dec. 9—MANKATO — Last season, the Minnesota State men's basketball team started with seven straight wins before things started to go wrong. They finished 16-10, including 9-9 in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference games.

But something seems different this season.

"I think we have better chemistry," coach Matt Margenthaler said. "The guys have bought in to what we're doing. It's a selfless team, and hopefully that continues."

The Mavericks (9-0, 3-0 in Northern Sun), who moved up to No. 9 in the national poll, host Augustana (5-4, 1-2) on Friday night and Wayne State (7-2, 2-1) on Saturday at Bresnan. This is their best start to a season since the 2009-10 team won its first 17 games.

"This is a complete 180 from last year," junior point guard Malik Willingham said. "The chemistry is great, and everybody just wants to win. No one is worried about stats, and everyone is excited for each other."

The Mavericks are averaging 89.8 points and shooting 51.5% from the field, including 43.4% from 3-point range.

Willingham leads the team in scoring at 22.1 points per game, shooting 50.7% from 3-point range, while also averaging 4.9 rebounds and 5.1 assists.

"He's developed into a great player," Margenthaler said. "He's worked hard on his game, and his confidence level is at an all-time high."

Willingham said he's more comfortable playing point guard, looking for the pass first. He worked hard on his shot in the offseason, which seems to be paying off nicely.

"It's nice to see the ball go in," he said. "I believe in myself. I just want to help the team win."

Backup point guard Harrison Braudis is averaging 13.6 points and shooting 55.2% on 3-pointers. Kyreese Willingham, Trevor Moore and Brady Williams are all averaging more than 10 points per game.

"We look to turn good shots into great shots, and we're all happy for each other," Malik Willingham said. "It's a lot of fun."

Women's basketball

The No. 6-ranked Mavericks (7-0, 3-0) will get their biggest tests of the season so far with games against Augustana (7-1, 2-1) and Wayne State (6-1, 2-1). Through seven games, the Mavericks' average margin of victory is 28.0 points, with only two games closer than 19 points.

"We're thankful for people voting for us (in national polls), but this group has done a nice job of blocking out the noise and focusing on us," coach Emilee Thiesse said. "The leadership is good, and we expect that moving forward. It's a big challenge this weekend, but we're hungry to keep improving."

The Mavericks have been led again by junior point guard Joey Batt, who is averaging 17.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 3.0 steals. Freshman Natalie Bremer, this week's Northern Sun South Division player of the week, is averaging 14.9 points and 4.3 rebounds.

"Our whole freshman class had had an impact," Thiesse said. "They bring some length and size, and they've fit in really well."

Follow Chad Courrier on Twitter @ChadCourrier.