SMSU MEN’S BASKETBALL: SMSU returns home to face two of the top teams in the NSIC South

Independent file photo SMSU’s Nick Dufault shoots a jumper during their game against MSU Mankato on Jan. 11. The Mustangs will face Winona State and Upper Iowa this weekend.

MARSHALL — The Southwest Minnesota State University men’s basketball team (6-12, 3-9 NSIC) returns home to the R/A Facility for a pair of critical NSIC South Division games this Friday and Saturday versus two of the hottest teams in the conference.

•SMSU will open the weekend on Friday, face Winona State University (10-8, 7-5 NSIC) with game time set for 7:30 p.m. WSU has won three straight and seven of its last nine games. WSU is currently in fourth place in the NSIC South standings.

•On Saturday, SMSU wraps-up the weekend battling Upper Iowa University (11-7, 8-4 NSIC) with tip-off slated for 6 p.m. UIU enters the weekend in second place in the NSIC South and is on a four-game winning streak and has won seven of its last nine games. UIU has scored 100 more points in three of its last four games and have reached 100 points four times this season.

•UIU ranks first in the NSIC in scoring offense (88.7), WSU ranks fifth (79.8), while SMSU is 16th (64.3). SMSU ranks third in the NSIC in scoring defense (70.5), while WSU is 10th (76.7) and UIU is 16th (88.4).

•SMSU, which split a pair of road games last weekend in the state of North Dakota, is 3-4 at home this season and has lost its last three home games. The last time SMSU lost four straight home games occurred from Jan. 3 to Jan. 30, 2015.

Broadcast info

•Both games will be broadcast on 105.1 FM KARL with Ryan Rohlik providing play-by-play.

•Live stats, radio broadcast and video can be found at SMSUmustangs.com.

Mustang tip-off tidbits

•SMSU ranks 36th in Division II (Jan. 20) in field goal percentage defense (41.8) and 60th in scoring defense (69.4).

•SMSU split two road games last weekend in North Dakota, winning 61-57 at Minot State last Friday, before losing 75-60 to UMary.

•SMSU limited Minot State to 22 percent shooting in the first half on Friday night. It was the second time in four games (at Wayne State on Jan. 4, 29.6) SMSU has limited an opponent to less than 30 percent shooting in a half.

•UMary connected on 15 3-pointers — the highest total by an SMSU opponent this season — in the victory on Saturday.

•Jake Phipps scored a career-high 18 points on 8 of 9 shooting in the victory at Minot State.

•Kenny Byers added 17 points on 7 of 10 from the field and also recorded five rebounds, five assists and four steals in the victory over Minot State.

•In the loss to UMary, Nick Dufault made five 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 16 points.

•Junior Kenny Byers leads the team in scoring (17.6), rebounding (7.8), assists (52), steals (29) and has recorded a team-high seven double-doubles. Byers ranks tied for sixth among all NSIC players with seven 10 or more rebound games this season, while his seven double-doubles ranks fourth among all NSIC players and 25th nationally.

•Junior Nick Dufault, who missed two games in early January with an injury, has connected on a team-high 38 3-pointers and is second on the squad in scoring (12.7). He ranks fifth in team history in 3-point field goal pct. (41.9) and 13th in program history with 131 3-point field goals made. He needs three more 3-pointers to move into a tie for 12th.

•Freshman Cliff McCray ranks third on the team in scoring (8.9) and second with 33 assists.

•Junior Weston Baker Magrath has a team-high 35 blocked shots, which ranks eighth in team single-season history.

•Sophomore Grant Kramer, who ranks third on the team with 24 assists, has missed the last seven games due to injury.

•SMSU has outrebounded its opponents just five times through 18 games this season and is minus-0.8 in rebound margin. Last season, SMSU outrebounded its opponent just twice in its last 21 games and finished last in the NSIC in rebound margin (minus-8.5).

•For the season, SMSU is shooting 44 percent from the field, 37 percent from 3-point range, 64 percent from the free throw line and is minus-0.8 in rebound margin. SMSU is averaging 66 points per game, while opponents are averaging 69 points per game.

Series history vs. Winona State

•SMSU and Winona State meet for the 110th time with WSU leading 70-39 in a series that started in 1968-69.

•WSU holds a 27-8 advantage since 2004-05, but SMSU is 6-5 in the last 11 meetings.

•SMSU has won four of the last six games since the start of the 2016-17 season. The teams split last season with each team winning on their home court.

•WSU hold a 27-24 advantage in games played in Marshall, but SMSU has won the last three inside the R/A Facility, including 69-67 last season.

•SMSU head coach Brad Bigler is 8-13 all-time versus WSU.

Series history

vs. Upper Iowa

•SMSU and Upper Iowa meet for the 30th time with SMSU leading 21-8 in a match-up that started in 1979-80.

•SMSU leads 10-4 in games played in Marshall, including winning last season, 90-65.

•UIU won four straight in Marshall from Jan. 18, 2014, to Jan. 7, 2017.

•SMSU has won five straight in the series which started with a victory in the championship game of the NSIC Tournament in 2017. Prior to SMSU’s current streak, UIU had won six of the previous seven games.

•SMSU won both games last season, 91-87 at Upper Iowa and 90-65 in Marshall.

•SMSU head coach Brad Bigler is 13-7 all-time versus UIU.

Scouting Winona State

•Winona State is 10-8 overall, 7-5 NSIC, and is currently on a three-game winning streak. The Warriors defeated Minnesota Crookston (80-66) and Bemidji State (82-74) at home last weekend.

•Junior guard Kevion Taylor leads the team in both scoring (19.6) and rebounding (7.4), while connecting on a team-high 63 3-pointers.

•Senior guard Caleb Wagner is averaging 18.9 ppg with 41 3-pointers.

•Junior forward Andrea Lo Biondo is scoring 9.1 ppg and averaging 6.3 rpg.

•WSU is shooting 43 percent from the field, 36 percent from 3-point range, 78 percent from the free throw line and is minus-3.7 in rebound margin.

•WSU is averaging 76 points per game, while opponents average 74 points per game.

•Head coach Todd Eisner is in his fifth season with a record of 70-64. He recorded 417 career victories as a head coach at Midland (Neb.), Benedictine (Kan.), Bellevue (Neb.) and Viterbo (Wis.).

Scouting Upper Iowa

•Upper Iowa is 11-7 overall, 8-4 NSIC, heading into Friday’s game at Sioux Falls. The Peacocks have won four straight at home, including last weekend over Bemidji State (105-93 2OT) and Minnesota Crookston (102-94).

•Junior forward Jareese Williams is averaging 13.9 ppg and leads the team with 57 3-pointers.

•Senior guard Joe Smoldt is scoring 13.3 ppg with 41 3-pointers.

•Jake Hilmer had dished out 87 assists and is averaging 12.1 ppg.

•UIU is shooting 46 percent from the field, 38 percent from 3-point range, 72 percent from the free throw line and is minus-4.4 in rebound margin. UIU ranks last in the NSIC in rebounding margin in 12 league games.

•UIU is averaging 84 points per game, while opponents average 83 points per game.

•Head coach Brooks McKowen is in his seventh season at UIU with a record of 106-89. He led the Peacocks to the 2017 NCAA Tournament.

•McKowen was an assistant coach at SMSU from 2011-13.

— Content courtesy

of SMSU Athletic