NSIC TOURNAMENT: SMSU comeback attempt falls short in NSIC Tournament title game, 81-75

Photo courtesy of Greg Devereaux SMSU’s KJ Davis surveys the floor during their NSIC Championship game against Northern State University on Tuesday. The Mustangs fell to the Wolves 81-75.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Northern State shot 59 percent from the field, connected on 10 3-pointers and held off a late Southwest Minnesota State comeback attempt, to earn an 81-75 victory in the championship game of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference/Sanford Health Men’s Basketball Tournament at the Sanford Pentagon on Tuesday night.

NSU, the NSIC overall champion and the No. 1 seed from the North Division, improves to 31-3 overall and will receive the NSIC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Central Region Tournament starting on March 10.

SMSU, the NSIC South Division No. 1 seed, had its 10-game winning streak snapped and drops to 24-8 overall.

NSU was ranked No. 2 in last week’s NCAA Central Region rankings, while SMSU was ranked No. 4. The next weekly ranking will be released on Wednesday, while the official 64-team NCAA Tournament will be announced this Sunday at 9:30 p.m. CST on NCAA.com.

SMSU, the defending tournament champion, nearly rallied from a 20-point second half deficit. NSU held a 59-39 advantage with 12 and a half minutes left in the game, but SMSU wouldn’t go away and cut the deficit to 77-75 with 1:14 remaining. It was as close as the Mustangs would come as the Wolves made enough plays in the final minute to secure the win.

Ryan Bruggeman paced SMSU with 21 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and two steals, while Carter Kirk added 14 points and five rebounds. Both players were named to the five-person all-tournament team. Michael Lee was the only other SMSU player in double figures with 11 points while drilling three 3-pointers.

SMSU finished the night shooting 45 percent (28 of 60) from the field, including 9 of 17 from 3-point range.

NSU was led by tournament MVP, DJ Pollard, who poured in 21 points on 7 of 10 shooting with four 3-pointers. He was one of five Wolves to score in double figures. NSU finished the game shooting 58 percent (27 of 46) from the field and made 10 of 16 from 3-point range, while holding a 33-28 rebound advantage.

NSU started the game red-shot making its first six field goal attempts of the game to help build an early 17-11 advantage in the opening five and a half minutes.

SMSU would rally to regain the lead behind a pair of 3-pointers from Nick Dufault at 20-19. Following an NSU field goal, Kolin Bartlett scored on a put-back to push SMSU back in front at 22-21 with 11 minutes and 16 second remaining.

NSU countered with a 10-0 run over the next four minutes, forcing SMSU into four turnovers and a pair of missed shots, to build a 31-22 lead at the 7:33 mark.

SMSU rallied and used back-to-back field goals by Bruggeman and Moen to cut the NSU lead to 35-31 with 2:52 remaining. NSU had another answer, closing the half on a 7-1 run, including three free throws with one second remaining, to take a 42-32 lead into halftime.

Bruggeman scored 11 points in the first half to pace the Mustangs. SMSU shot 45 percent from the field in the half and committed six turnovers.

NSU closed the opening half shooting 58 percent and held a 17-11 rebound margin.

SMSU missed eight of its first nine shots to open the second half as NSU pushed the lead to 53-34 with 14 minutes remaining. NSU would later take its largest lead of the game at 59-39 following a Darin Peterka 3-pointer at the 12:37 mark.

The Mustangs then mounted their comeback attempt, connecting on 12 of 15 from the field, including 5 of 5 from 3-point range, to cut the Wolves lead to 77-75 with 1:14 remaining following a Bruggeman 3-pointer.

On the ensuing NSU possession, Bruggeman was called for a blocking foul and NSU’s Peterka made one of two free throws with 46 seconds left to push the lead to 78-75. SMSU would miss a layup attempt on its next possession and NSU was able to secure the rebound and score moments later on a fast-break layup to make the score 80-75 and seal the victory.

Content courtesy

of SMSU Athletic