SMSU MEN’S BASKETBALL: Strong defensive effort leads SMSU to 65-52 victory over Michigan Tech

MOORHEAD – Southwest Minnesota State used a strong defensive effort in the second half-limiting Michigan Tech to 15 points-to earn a 65-52 victory in men’s college basketball on Friday night at Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse.

The game was played as part of the Microtel Classic hosted by MSU Moorhead.

SMSU, 2-2 overall, trailed 37-33 at halftime, but limited the Huskies to 24 percent shooting in the final half, while SMSU shot 50 percent in the second half.

It was the first time SMSU limited an opponent to less than 20 points in a half since Feb. 8, 2014.

Ryan Bruggeman led the Mustangs with a game-high 17 points on 7 of 14 shooting. He also recorded five steals, four rebounds and three assists. Taylor Schafer poured in 13 points with three 3-pointers, while Nick Dufault scored a career-high 11 points on 5 of 8 shooting.

SMSU finished the game shooting 46 percent (25 of 55), which included 8 of 22 from 3-point range. SMSU closed the game with a 34-28 rebound advantage with Turner Moen and Carter Kirk each pulling down seven rebounds for the Mustangs.

MTU, 2-1 overall, maintained the lead for nearly the entire first half, including holding eight point leads on three different occasions. MTU led 29-21 with five minutes left in the half before Dufault connected on a pair of field goals to cut the deficit to 29-25.

MTU would later push the lead to 33-25, but SMSU rallied behind 3-pointers by Michael Lee and Dufault and another field goal by Dufault late in the half, to trim the MTU lead to 36-33 at halftime.

The Huskies continued to hold the lead, including at 46-41 with 12:33 remaining, until the Mustangs put together the game-changing run. A Bruggeman layup started an 11-0 run over a three-minute span to give SMSU a 52-46 lead with 9:18 remaining. Following Bruggeman’s field goal, Lee followed with a jumper and a 3-pointer on back-to-back possessions to give the Mustangs their first lead of the game at 48-46.

SMSU held a 52-48 lead before five straight points by Bruggeman pushed the margin to 57-48 at the 7:17 mark. Following a field goal by MTU, Schafer connected on back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Mustangs a 63-50 lead to help seal the victory.

SMSU coach Brad Bigler said they struggled a little bit on the offensive end with finding a rhythm, but added he was pleased with Bruggeman’s ability to put pressure on Michigan Tech’s defense, especially down the stretch.

“This early in the season, we’ve struggled with getting into a rhythm on the offensive end,” Bigler said. “Our ball movement needs to get better, but I felt Ryan did a good job of putting pressure on the defense in the second half.”

Bryan Heath scored a team-high 13 points for Michigan Tech, which opened the season with victories over Lewis (Ill.) and Wisconsin-Parkside last weekend.

Bigler added that they were able to get some key baskets on offense in the second half that helped spark their defensive performance.

“We made a couple of shots which helped us play with some more energy on defense,” Bigler said. “Our guys had each other’s backs.”

Southwest Minnesota State wraps up the weekend today facing another Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference foe, Northern Michigan with tip-off set for 2 p.m.

Bigler said their biggest takeaway will be to protect the rim and the paint against a big Northern Michigan team.

“They’re a very talented team. We have to use our ability to protect the paint and the rim against their post players who can cover space,” Bigler said.

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