SMSU MEN’S BASKETBALL: Mustangs pull away from Marauders in second half

Photo by Sam Thiel SMSU’s Carter Kirk puts up a shot during their game against the University of Mary on Saturday. The Mustangs defeated the Marauders 83-61.

MARSHALL – Carter Kirk scored 22 points on 9 of 11 shooting and pulled down a game-high eight rebounds to pace Southwest Minnesota State to an 83-61 “Hawaiian Night” victory over the University of Mary on Saturday at the R/A Facility.

SMSU shot 61 percent from the field in the second half, outscoring U-Mary 48-29, to pull away and earn its third straight victory. The Mustangs improve to 17-7 overall, 13-5 NSIC, while the Marauders drop to 5-17 overall, 3-15 NSIC.

SMSU coach Brad Bigler said in the first half they allowed the Marauders to create some momentum but felt the second half push, especially from their bench, set the tone for the rest of the game.

“I thought early in the game, the University of Mary was able to get some momentum and it took a great effort to get a lead going into the half,” Bigler said. “The second half I have to give a lot of credit to that group with our freshmen where they went on a 7-0 run and opened it up from a three-point game to a 10-point game.”

Turner Moen and Ryan Bruggeman each scored 14 points to help the SMSU charge with Moen adding six rebounds, four steals and three assists. Bruggeman dished out seven assists and recorded three steals. Both players finished 6 of 8 shooting from the field.

Kenny Byers and Nick Dufault both chipped in with nine points off the bench, while Taylor Schafer added eight points.

Trevor Zacher led the Marauders with a career-high 27 points on 8 of 11 shooting with four 3-pointers.

SMSU shot 56 percent (33 of 59) from the field for the game, while making 8 of 24 3-pointers. SMSU forced U-Mary into 17 turnovers, converting the miscues into 23 points.

U-Mary shot just 35 percent (18 of 51) from the field, but did connect on 10 3-pointers and held a 32-31 rebound advantage.

SMSU jumped out to an early 11-6 lead with 15:21 left in the first half following a jumper by Bruggeman. U-Mary countered with a 13-4 run over the next four minutes to build a 19-15 advantage.

U-Mary would maintain a 21-17 lead with 10:42 remaining before Moen drilled a 3-pointer to spark a 7-0 run to put SMSU back in front at 24-21.

Neither team would have a lead of more than three the rest of the half as U-Mary held a 32-30 lead with less than a minute left in the half, but Bruggeman connected on a 3-pointer and a jumper in the final 38 seconds to give the Mustangs a 35-32 halftime lead.

Zacher made his first six shots of the game and finished with 18 first half points to pace the Marauders.

Moen led the Mustangs with 12 first half points while Bruggeman added 11 points in the half.

U-Mary was 8 of 9 from the free throw line in the first half, while SMSU did not attempt a free throw.

SMSU pushed the lead to 41-34 early in the second half, but U-Mary rallied and cut the deficit to 46-43 at the 15:51 mark. The Marauders had a chance to tie the game moments later, but a 3-pointer by Matthew Kreklow missed the mark. On the ensuing possession, a key Kolin Bartlett put-back field goal sparked a 9-0 run, which included a 3-pointer by Dufault, a jumper from Schafer and closed off with a Kirk layup, extended the lead to 55-43 with 11:14 remaining.

Bigler said that group each made its own mark on the game and helped provide a major impact.

“I thought it was a great group effort; each guy did their own thing,” Bigler said. “I thought Kenny and Turner did a great job of getting paint touches and then finding Nick and Taylor for threes and Kolin was cleaning up the boards.”

The lead never dipped below double digits for the remainder of the game as SMSU improved to 7-1 versus NSIC North Division teams during conference play this season.

Bigler said their key on defense was their pressure and ability to turn the Marauders mistakes into points.

“It was about our ability to get a hand on the basketball,” Bigler said. “They had 17 turnovers, so our ability to get out and turn our defense into offense; I thought that was big.”

Southwest Minnesota State returns to the road for the final time in the regular season next Friday, Feb. 9, taking on Wayne State College at 8 p.m. SMSU concludes the weekend facing Augustana in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on Saturday, Feb. 10.

Bigler said their biggest takeaway will be defending at a higher level and staying strong as a unit.

“I thought our offensive execution was pretty solid this weekend. We did a great job of taking high-percentage shots,” Bigler said. “One thing going into next weekend is we’re going to have to defend at a better level and be better as a unit. Those details will be key to come out with victories next weekend.”

Content courtesy of SMSU Athletic Communications

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