SMSU MEN’S BASKETBALL: Déjà vu
SMSU men’s basketball faces Minot State again; wins home opener behind red-hot shooting, 83-64
MARSHALL — The first two times the Southwest Minnesota State University men’s basketball team faced Minot State University this season, they found themselves locked in a low-scoring defensive battle, with both games being separated by five or fewer points.
SMSU felt more comfortable at home in their third matchup against the Beavers. Led by a red-hot shooting display from the 3-point line, the Mustangs battled from a back-and-forth start to earn a strong 83-64 victory Friday night at the R/A Facility.
SMSU was originally scheduled to face Winona State University at home, but the games were canceled on Monday due to COVID-19 protocols at WSU. Minot was supposed to face the University of Minnesota Duluth, but had to find another option after those games got canceled.
Minot State jumped out to an early 9-3 lead before a 3-pointer by Kaden Evans and a layup from Cliff McCray cut the deficit to one at 9-8 with 14:30 left in the first half. SMSU then took the lead thanks to a 3-pointer from Nick Dufault before a triple by Sam Schwartz pushed the Mustangs advantage to 21-15 midway through the frame.
The Beavers battled back, though, getting to within five with six minutes to go, but Schwartz answered with a triple a few minutes later to make it a six-point lead again for SMSU at 33-27. Both teams traded points the rest of the half, but the Mustangs got a little momentum when Evans drilled a 3-pointer to beat the halftime buzzer to give SMSU a 41-33 lead going into the locker rooms.
SMSU coach Brad Bigler said they did a good job of finding the right player on the floor when they got the ball into the paint in order to get the open shots.
“It was really important for us to get paint touches early on in the possession; our post players did a nice job of looking and finding the open player,” Bigler said. “We were just drawing two defenders and driving and kicking and we were able to step up and make shots.”
The Beavers opened the second half with a 4-0 run to cut the deficit to four, but Dufault answered with a 3-pointer to end a nearly three-minute scoreless streak for SMSU. The two teams traded points over the next few minutes, before the Mustangs slowly started to increase their lead. Evans got a layup to go before 3-pointers by Dufault and Schwartz and a dunk by Weston Baker Magrath pushed the Mustangs advantage to 18 at 61-43 with 11 minutes to play.
SMSU would stay in control the rest of the way, never letting its advantage get below 14 points. The Mustangs led by as many as 24 after a 3-pointer by Dufault and a 3-point play from Jake Phipps made it 82-58 in the closing minutes before SMSU ultimately earned the 19-point victory.
Dufault led the Mustangs with 22 points while Evans poured in a career-high 17, Phipps added 13 and Schwartz had 11. McCray led in rebounds with nine and dished out five assists. As a team, SMSU shot 62.3% (33 of 53) from the field, including a blistering 60% from 3-point range (15 of 25).
Evans said they were able to learn a lot offensively from their film from last weekend’s games.
“After we watched film from last weekend, we understood their defensive schemes,” Evans said. “We were able to use that and figure out the easy play and find the open man and it definitely helps when you’re hitting shots.”
Defensively, SMSU held Minot State to 46.6% (27 of 58) from the field, including just 26.3% from 3-point range (5 of 19) while also forcing 11 turnovers.
Bigler added they were able to limit Minot State to just one offensive rebound on the game, which was huge.
“One of the key improvements from last weekend was our rebounding,” Bigler said. “They only had one guy who had an offensive rebound, so being able to limit their possessions was an important factor.”
SMSU (2-1) will face Minot State one more time today, with the game starting at 2 p.m. Bigler said they need to come in focused and ready to go and not get too overconfident, especially when playing the same team three times in a row.
“I think the most important thing is to not get overconfident, especially playing the same team on the second night of a back-to-back,” Bigler said. “We need to come ready to play with a sense of intensity, especially in the first five minutes.”