MARSHALL - Neither Augustana nor Southwest Minnesota State were able to make a defensive stop all night.
But when the Mustangs got some momentum rolling late in the second half following five straight points by Jordan Miller, SMSU called a timeout. The focus: make a stop.
"Coach was like, 'We have to get stops,'" said Mustangs forward Lavione West. "Ninety percent of our practices are defense, so we knew we had to get stops."
Photo by Matt Dahlseid
Southwest Minnesota State’s Matt Zager (24) shoots a floater over Augustana’s Cameron McCaffrey (1) as teammate Drae Murray looks on during Saturday’s NSIC?game at the R/A Facility.
SMSU locked down Augustana and went on a 9-0 run to go up 79-74 with 29 seconds remaining. The Mustangs closed the game out with an 80-77 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference victory Saturday at the R/A Facility.
With six seconds left, Matt Zager went to the line for a pair of free throws. Scoring a season-high 19 points, Zager hit the first free throw. The second shot bounced out, and Augustana went racing down the floor. Ellsworth native Cody Schilling had the ball in his hand for the final shot. Before Zager went to the line, Schilling hit a three-pointer to cut SMSU's lead to 79-77.
"When Schilling hit that crazy three-pointer, I can't say I didn't expect it because he's hit a lot of big shots here," Zager said. "I was able to make my first one. They tried to ice me a little bit, the scorer's table iced me a little bit. I knew Cody was going to take the shot."
Drae Murray 6-11 4-5 18, Cody Schilling 5-11 3-4 16, Cameron McCaffrey 3-8 4-5 10, Leif Nomeland 3-6 1-2 8, Brennan Olson 1-1 0-2 2, Yurly Malashenko 4-6 0-0 10, Alex Richter 3-8 0-0 9, David Fritsch 1-1 0-0 2, Derrick DeZeeuw 1-2 0-0 2, Eric Jorgensen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-54 12-18 77. Three-Pointers 11-22 (Richter 3-4, Schilling 3-5) Rebounds 24 (Olson 6) Assists 12 (Murray 5) Steals 9 Blocks 1 (DeZeeuw) Turnovers 11 Total Fouls 16.
Matt Zager 7-9 5-7 19, Vinard Birch 7-10 0-0 14, Jordan Miller 5-10 1-1 12, Will Giddings 3-5 0-0 8, Nick Smith 2-4 2-2 6, Lavione West 4-6 2-2 10, Tramel Barnes 1-4 4-4 6, Trent Carlson 1-2 0-0 3, Casey Sussenguth 0-1 2-2 2. Totals 30-51 16-18 80. Three-Pointers 4-13 (Giddings 2-4) Rebounds 27 (Smith 6) Assists 11 (Birch 4) Steals 5 (Giddings 2, Barnes) Blocks 4 Turnovers 11 Total Fouls 16.
Halftime Score: Augustana 36, SMSU 35.
Looking for the tie, Schilling launched an off-balance three. But the ball fell short, and the Hawaiian Night crowd stormed the court in celebration of SMSU's victory.
"It's a win we really wanted and we were able to get it," Zager said. "You can't explain it with words."
Four Mustangs - Zager, West, Miller and Vinard Birch - finished in double figures as SMSU improves to 11-6 in the NSIC, 12-9 overall. Birch dropped 14, Miller added 12 and West scored 10. The team shot 58.8 percent from the field and out-scored Augustana in the paint 48-26.
"Hopefully that shows that we're growing as a basketball team," said Mustangs head coach Brad Bigler. "I truly believe that these guys like playing with each other and have each other's backs.
"When it comes down to the crunch like that, there's going to be some breakdowns here and there, and I think our guys helped each other out and made plays at key moments."
Zager, who averaged 10.3 points per game coming into the weekend, scored 16 points in the second half to propel the Mustangs into the win column.
"I thought he took it another level in the second half," Bigler said of Zager. "He shot 7 of 9 and a lot of those came into the second half."
But it was defense that set the tone late in the second half. With 2:33 left, the Vikings' Cameron McCaffrey camped out in the corner and shot a wide-open three. But West closed in and tipped the ball, swinging the momentum back into SMSU's favor.
"I got caught on an island and he skipped it over and it had enough air under the ball so I could get over there in time and use my athleticism to jump up and block the shot," West said.
Bigler added, "That's a play very few people can make. Give Lav credit for hustling and making that play."
Thanks to a nine-point first half by Drae Murray, the Vikings took a 36-35 halftime lead. Murray led Augustana with 18 points, while Schilling had 16 on 5 of 11 shooting.
With Saturday's win and Friday's 73-58 victory over Wayne State, the Mustangs improve to 8-1 at the R/A Facility this season. But SMSU returns to the road this weekend to take on Concordia-St. Paul on Friday and 20th-ranked St. Cloud State on Saturday.