FAYETTE, Iowa - Southwest Minnesota State extended its winning streak to a season-long three straight by picking up an 83-73 road victory over Upper Iowa on Friday night in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference game.
The Mustangs (5-4, 3-1 NSIC) were led by Joey Bartlett, who scored a career-high 17 points and was one of five SMSU players to score in double figures. William Giddings scored 15 points and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds to help pace the Mustangs, while Nick Smith (14), Vinard Birch (13) and Matt Zager (12) all reached double figures.
"It just goes back to our guys playing unselfish basketball," Southwest Minnesota State head coach Brad Bigler said. "We have been trying to get teammates some open shots, trying to get action to the rim and also trying to shoot at a high percentage."
Bartlett finished the game connecting on 6 of 10 shots, including a career-high four 3-pointers. Birch collected six assists and three steals, while Zager dished out five assists and three steals.
SMSU opened a 38-36 halftime lead with a key 11-0 run early in the second half to build a 54-41 lead with 16 minutes, 30 seconds remaining and never looked back in earning its sixth straight win over UIU (3-7, 1-3 NSIC). The Mustangs shot 72.7 percent (16 of 22) from the field in the second half to score 45 second half points.
"Any time you can make a 11-0 run like that, you have to make defensive stops,"?Bigler said. "Our guys were guarding a little better and really getting some buckets in transition."
It's the third time this season SMSU has shot 70 percent or higher from the field in the second half of a game.
SMSU ended the game shooting 54.4 percent (31 of 57) from the field, including 8 of 13 from 3-point range. The Mustangs also finished with a 35-32 rebound advantage.
Both teams played a tight opening 10 minutes with neither one holding a lead larger than three points. UIU held a 19-16 advantage with less 10 minutes left in the half before SMSU's Mitch Weg and Nick Smith connected on back-to-back jumpers to give the Mustangs their first lead since the game's opening minute at 20-19 with 8:50 remaining.
UIU countered with an 8-0 run to take its largest lead of the game at 27-20, before SMSU answered with its own 9-0 run. Smith started the spurt with a jumper and was followed by a Joey Bartlett 3-pointer. Smith then hit back-to-back field goals to give the Mustangs a 29-27 advantage at the 4:00 mark.
"Upper Iowa put some pressure on us in the first half by attacking the rim and by taking advantage of some matchups," Bigler said. "I think we made some good adjustments at halftime and it really came down to our guys defending the dribble in the second half."
Bartlett would drilled another 3-pointer to snap a tie and give SMSU a 34-31 lead with 2:16 left. Following a three-point play by UIU's Joey Woods, Bartlett and Smith once again hit jumpers to push the Mustangs' lead to 38-34, before settling for a 38-36 halftime lead.
Smith led SMSU with 12 first half points, while Bartlett added nine points. The Mustangs shot 43 percent in the opening half.
SMSU started the second half red-hot with Bartlett drilling a pair of 3-pointers, before Williams Giddings and Shaun Condon each connected on a 3-pointers to give the Mustangs a 54-41 lead with 16:25 left in the game.
The Peacocks trimmed the deficit to 54-46 with 14:50 remaining, before SMSU answered with six straight points capped by a dunk by Giddings to make the score 60-46. The lead for the Mustangs never dipped below double digits the remainder of the game.
Joey Woods led Upper Iowa with 20 points and seven assists.
Southwest Minnesota State continues its two-game weekend road swing by taking on Winona State (8-2, 4-0 NSIC) with tip-off slated for 6 p.m today.
SMSU 83, UPPER IOWA 73
SOUTHWEST MINNESOTA STATE (5-4 OVERALL, 3-1 NSIC): William Giddings 6-10 1-3 15, Vinard Birch 6-11 1-1 13, Drew Osmundson 2-4 1-2 5, Mitch Weg 1-1 0-0 2, Shaun Condon 1-5 2-3 5, Joey Bartlett 6-10 1-2 17, Matt Zager 4-5 3-5 12, Nick Smith 5-11 4-4 14. TOTALS: 31-57 (54.4%) 13-20 (65%) 83.
UPPER IOWA (3-7 OVERALL, 1-3 NSIC): Joey Woods 7-13 6-7 20, Jimmy Roth 3-7 3-6 9, Bo Pagel 1-6 0-0 3, Jace Hanna 0-2 0-0 0, Grant Lang 4-8 2-2 13, Jordan Hay 1-2 2-2 4, David Smith 1-2 1-4 3, Kierre Ogbonna 1-5 0-0 2, Josh Weeber 8-13 0-0 19, Austin Mecca 0-1 0-0 0. TOTALS: 26-59 (44.1%) 14-21 (66.7%) 73.
HALFTIME: Southwest Minnesota State 38, Upper Iowa 36. 3-POINT FIELD GOALS: Southwest Minnesota State 8-13 (Bartlett 4-6, Giddings 2-3, Zager 1-2, Condon 1-1); Upper Iowa 7-21 (Lang 3-4, Weeber 3-6, Pagel 1-4). REBOUNDS: Southwest Minnesota State 35 (Giddings 8, Smith 8, Condon 8); Upper Iowa 32 (Woods 4, Roth 4, Weeber 4). TOTAL FOULS (FOULED OUT): Southwest Minnesota State 13 (None); Upper Iowa 18 (None). TECHNICAL FOULS: None. ASSISTS: Southwest Minnesota State 16 (Birch 6, Zager 5); Upper Iowa 13 (Woods 7). STEALS: Southwest Minnesota State 8 (Zager 3); Upper Iowa 8 (Roth 4). BLOCKED SHOTS: Southwest Minnesota State 3 (Bartlett 2); Upper Iowa 3. TURNOVERS: Southwest Minnesota State 12; Upper Iowa 10.