MANKATO, Minn. – The Minnesota State men’s basketball team used a 26-point, 17-rebound effort from senior wing Jefferson Mason and a career-high 13 assists from senior guard Marcus Hill en route to an 81-63 victory against Fort Lewis College in the regional final of the 2011 NCAA Central Region.

Minn. State

Minnesota State advances to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division II tournament where it will face Alabama-Huntsville on Wednesday in Springfield, Mass.

“I couldn’t be more happy for this team,” said head coach Matt Margenthaler. “This is the best group I have had come through here during my time and these five seniors have put so much into this program.”

The Mavericks got out to a 2-0 lead before a single second ticked off the clock. An administrative technical on Fort Lewis sent Hill to the foul line where he proceeded to make two free throws prior to tip-off.

In a first half filled with runs by both teams, it was Minnesota State that struck first as senior Cameron Hodges scored seven unanswered points giving the Mavericks and early 12-9 lead. MSU would go on a 15-7 run from this point as they extended their lead to 25-16.

Fort Lewis would begin their run from here as the Skyhawks went on a 9-0 run highlighted by two three-pointers by David Kanyinda tying the score at 25.

However, Minnesota State wouldn’t allow the Skyhawks run to last as Mason’s dunk at the 6:40 mark extended the Mavericks lead back to six. The Mavericks would start to run again from here as Mason followed up his dunk with an and-one tip-in from on offensive rebound giving the Mavericks a 35-26 advantage.

Minnesota State dominated the next seven minutes, going on a 15-5 run before Fort Lewis put together back-to-back layups cutting the lead to eight.

Minnesota State would take a 44-34 lead into halftime as freshman Connor O’Brien tipped in a missed layup by Hill at the buzzer.

The Mavericks were led by Mason’s 14 points and nine rebounds in the first half while Hodges added 13.

The Skyhawks also had two players score in double digits in the first half as Kanyinda scored 12 points while Daniel Steffensen added 10.

The Mavericks held a slight advantage from the floor as they shot 46.9 percent compared to Fort Lewis’ 42.4 percent. The Mavericks made eight more trips to the foul line in the first half as they went 10-of-12 (83.3 percent) compared to Fort Lewis’ 2-of-4 (50 percent).

Minnesota State would maintain a 10-plus point lead throughout the second half as they recorded four quick points as Hodges hit a jumper before Mason’s breakaway dunk gave the Mavericks a 48-34 lead.

Senior Joe Drapcho made his presence felt at the 9:24 mark as he connected on back-to-back three pointers giving the Mavericks a 65-49 lead.

Later in the half, an and-one jumper by Fort Lewis’ DeAndre Lansdowne was answered by an and-one jumper by Drapcho which gave the Mavericks a 71-54 lead. The basket was assisted by Hill, which was his 10th of the game. The 10 assists marks the third time Hill has accomplished the feat this season and the fourth time in his career.

Both Mason and Hodges reached the 20-point mark in the second half as Hodges hits a jumper at the 4:58 mark. The 20-plus point performance by Mason is his 16th this season.

The Mavericks put the finishing touch on via a dunk by Mason with 1:30 left sealing the victory for the Mavericks.

“This is humbling,” said Hodges. “The support we got from the fans, the University and the community tonight was amazing. I can’t thank them enough for how they have supported us.”

Mason, the tournament MVP, paced the Mavericks with 26 points and 17 rebounds as he went 8-of-16 from the field including 10-of-12 from the free throw line. Mason’s double-double is his ninth of the season. The 17 rebounds tied his career-high.

Also earning All-Tournament honors was Hodges who finished with 23 points and 6 rebounds on a 9-of-15 performance including 4-of-4 from the free throw line.

Hill was the third Maverick earning All-Tournament honors as he finished the game with 8 points and a career-high 13 assists. Hill also added four rebounds.

Also scoring in double figures for the Mavericks was Drapcho who scored 12 points on a 4-of-5 performance from the field including 3-for-3 from long range.

The Mavericks finished the night 27-of-55 from the floor (49.1 percent) while the Skyhawks went 24-of-60 (40.0 percent).

Minnesota State also out-rebounded the Skyhawks 40 to 30.

Lansdowne led Fort Lewis with a 21-point, 12-rebound effort. The Skyhawks season ends with a 24-8 record.