MANKATO, Minn. --- Minnesota State got 20-plus point performances from seniors Marcus Hill, Cameron Hodges and Jefferson Mason en route to a 96-81 victory against Winona State in the opening round of the 2011 NCAA Division II Central Region.

The Mavericks entered regional play the top-seed, while Winona State was seeded eighth. The win for MSU avenged last week’s 82-74 loss to the Warriors in the NSIC/Sanford Health Tournament.

Hill finished the night with 27 points, while Hodges added 21 and Mason added 22. The three of them accounted for 72.9 percent of MSU’s scoring in the win and it also marked the first time under head coach Matt Margenthaler that three Mavericks have scored 20+ points in a game.

“Our senior leaders did what we needed them to do tonight,” said Margenthaler. “They are focused and ready to go, and more importantly, they won’t let this team down. This is just one piece of the puzzle however, we got to collect ourselves and get ready what we know will be another tough test tomorrow.”

The first half was a back and forth affair as the score was tied at 29 with 3:40 remaining in the first half. Hill then took over as he rattled off eight of MSU’s 11 points during an 11-1 run which allowed the Mavericks to open a 40-30 halftime advantage.

Hill led all scorers in the first half with 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting. As a team, MSU shot 50 percent in the first 20 minutes while limiting WSU to 37.9 percent, including 23.1 percent from beyond the three-point line.

Minnesota State carried its momentum from the first half into the second half as it opened the period with a 14-2 run opening a lead as large as 21 with 17:35 remaining in the game after junior guard Stephen Kirschbaum drilled a three from the top of the key.

From that point on, the Maverick controlled the game en route to the win. Winona State would pull within 15 twice in the second half, the last being after senior guard Ben Fischer drained a three with 30 seconds left.

Hill finished the night hitting on 8-of-13 shots, including 2-of-6 from the three point line and 9-of-13 from the stripe. Mason’s 22 points came thanks in part to a 12-of-14 effort from the free throw line, while Hodges hit on 8-of-14 shots en route to his 21 points. Hodges led all Mavericks with eight rebounds while Mason had seven. Hill passed out six assists in the win.

Winona State was led by sophomore center Clayton Vette’s 24 points and 11 rebounds.

Minnesota State finished the night hitting on 59.6 percent of its chances, including a scorching 69.2 percent in the second half. Winona State was limited to just 36.1 percent from the floor, while connecting on just 34.9 percent in the second half.

The Mavericks (25-4) advance to the semifinal round of the Central Region tomorrow. Minnesota State will face the winner of the #4 University of Mary and the #5 Metro State contest.