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Thursday, September 19, 2013

No longer flying under the radar

Senior quarterback Jon Wolf leads #2 Minnesota State into
into Saturday's game at #7 Minnesota Duluth
Is the match-up between our second-ranked Mavericks and undefeated and #7-rated Minnesota Duluth this Saturday the biggest regular-season game in the history of Minnesota State Football?

Certainly a game of this importance this early in the season is unusual on a number of levels.

Minnesota State, which has never been rated higher than third in the American Football Coaches Association poll prior to this year, carries a 13-game Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference winning streak into this weekend.

The Mavericks, who are off to a 2-0 start this year, haven't lost a regular-season game since the end of 2011 season when they dropped a 31-19 decision at, you guessed it, Minnesota Duluth.  Prior to that contest, D2football.com had the Mavericks rated 24th and the Bulldogs tenth.

I've expounded on this before, but in 1993 Minnesota State was rated eighth heading into Homecoming Weekend when #1 North Dakota State visited Mankato.  The underdog Mavericks, who had never beaten the Bison at Blakeslee Stadium, prevailed 28-27 in an exciting come-from-behind victory.  MSU moved into a tie for third in the nation following the win, then dropped to #11 after falling at North Dakota (20-9) the next weekend.

The 1992 campaign saw MSU get off to a 4-0 start and a #7 ranking on Sept. 28 before a 7-0 loss to St. Cloud State dropped the Mavericks to #11.

In 2009 the Mavericks were rated in the top 25 for the entire season, peaking at #4 after winning its first ten games.  MSU lost its 11th game of the year (26-21 at unranked St. Cloud State) before hosting a NCAA play-off game vs. Hillsdale.  The final poll that season had the Mavericks ranked 14th.

Minnesota Duluth has won two national titles in the last five seasons and Minnesota State, which went 13-1 last year and played in the national semi-finals, is no longer flying under the radar.

So, yeah. This is Saturday's game is big. There have been big regular-season games before. Perhaps this one is the biggest.

It's great to be a Maverick.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

What'd You Do This Summer?

Maverick junior Assem Marei played for Eqypt this summer and
will again in 2014 when the Egyptians play in the World Cup
While most college students are taking classes or working during summer vacation, Minnesota State junior forward Assem Marei was playing on the Egyptian national team in the Federal International Basketball Association Africa 2013 tournament in the Ivory Coast.

After going 0-3 in pool play games at the tournament, Marei helped Egypt to a first-round play-off win over Tunisia before a one-point victory Cape Verde placed the team in the tournament semifinals.  The Pharaohs held off Senegal, 70-63, to advance to the tournament finals. The semi-final victory was crucial as it secured a spot in the 2014 FIBA World Cup, which will be in Spain next year.

The Egyptians, who eventually fell to Angola in the tournament championship by a 57-40 margin, returns to the World Cup for the first time since 1994.

The Cairo native was a key factor for the Egyptians in the FIBA quarterfinal win over Sengal hitting nine-of-ten shots en route to scoring 22 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. He finished the seven-game tournament averaging14.6 points and 11.6 rebounds per game at the tournament. His outstanding performance garnered him top-rebounder honors along with a spot on the all-tournament team.

About playing on the national team at just 21 years old Marei said, “It’s a great opportunity and is great to be seen by a lot of clubs.” While some dream of one day representing their country to him it’s a reality. Marei mentioned “It’s an honor playing for your country and having your country’s name on the front of your jersey, qualifying for the World Cup is a dream come true.” 

Although it was important for Egypt to do well in the FIBA Africa tournament, that wasn’t even a thought going into the tournament for Marei who looked at it one game at a time. When asked what his ultimate goal was, he replied, “I’d like to play in the NBA and making the Olympics would be a dream come true.”

Marei, who started all 33 games for MSU in 2012-13 and averaged 13.6 points and a team-leading 7.3 rebounds per game, was named All-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Second Team in his first year with the program.

Marei’s journey this summer gave him an experience unlike any other for most NCAA Division II student-athletes. Head coach Matt Margenthaler said, “It also gives great exposure internationally and great recognition not only to our basketball program, but to our University.”
      - contributed by Danielle Schugel, Minnesota State athletic communications intern

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