‘We showed our potential’

Mustangs run away with 80-46 Tropical Night win over Wolves

Photo by Jake McNeill Southwest Minnesota State guard Mason Lund (13) shoots a 3-pointer during the first half of a mens basketball game against Northern State at the R/A Facility in Marshall on Saturday night. The Mustangs defeated the Wolves 80-46.

MARSHALL — The Southwest Minnesota State mens basketball team went wire-to-wire against Northern State on Saturday night, taking down the Wolves for an 80-46 Tropical Night win. The victory followed the womens basketball team’s win over Northern State, marking SMSU’s first doubleheader sweep of the Wolves since 2009. 

“I thought this weekend we showed our potential on the defensive end,” SMSU head coach Brad Bigler said. “I thought defensively this weekend, we were pretty complete. The guys were anticipating well, they were moving when the ball’s in the air, they were doing all those fundamental things at a pretty high level. I thought that gave us an edge this weekend.”

It took the Mustangs just two minutes to find their offensive rhythm and start to pull away from the Wolves. With the game tied at 4-4, the Mustangs went on a 9-0 run — highlighted by a 3-pointer, a long 2 and a dunk from Mason Lund — to take command of the game. Northern State never tied the game back up after its first two baskets. 

“We’re always talking about how in the first five minutes of each half, it’s really important to get out and start on a good note,” Lund said. “I think being able to knock down a couple of shots like that and then have a big play like a dunk to get the bench going, get the guys on the floor going in front of a crowd like we had tonight is a really important stretch of the game for sure.”

Lund finished the game tied with Jake Phipps with a game-high 15 points. Both members of the Mustangs’ scoring duo were efficient with their shots, Lund going 5-of-7 from the field with three 3-pointers and Phipps shooting 7-of-12 from the field. Dunwa Omot also scored 13 points for the Mustangs with a trio of trifectas on 5-of-7 shooting while Aeron Stevens chipped in another 12 points.

Stevens increased the Mustangs’ lead to 17-7 just over six minutes into the game. From there, the Wolves never cut the deficit to single digits for more than one possession with SMSU answering each bucket. SMSU led by as many as 17 points in the first half with a Kyle Luedtke 3-pointer giving the Mustangs a 43-26 lead going into the locker room.

Saturday’s win marks three in a row for the Mustangs; they also defeated UMary in an 83-51 rout on Friday night and Minnesota Crookston 77-67 a week prior. The hot streak comes after SMSU was swept on a road trip during which they lost to Minnesota State Moorhead and Minot State, currently second and third in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference standings.

“I think that was probably as difficult of a trip as you could have in the NSIC right now and I thought our guys handled it well,” Bigler said. “Where they responded was in practice. Last week in practice, guys were just locked in… Our point of emphasis in practice is to be great at our basics, so just how we’re talking, energy on the ball, tips on balls, just don’t assume and be really good at all the basics and then allow the highlight plays to happen naturally.”

The highlight plays certainly flowed naturally on Saturday; halfway through the second half, Mekhi Shaw came up with a steal, threw up a lob to Omot on the fast break and Omot slammed down the alley-oop to send the home crowd into a frenzy. Stevens slammed down a dunk in the halfcourt offense during the Mustangs’ next possession to increase the SMSU lead to 61-31 with under 13 minutes to play.

“When we have the ability to turn our defense into offense, that’s when basketball plays like that happen,” Bigler said. “Our ability to play pretty sound defense tonight and turn long rebounds and turnovers into points, it’s a fun, fun, fun kind of basketball to watch.”

As a group, SMSU held the Wolves to 30% shooting from the field in the game. They were particularly tenacious in the second half, holding the Wolves to 36% from the field and 1-of-13 from 3-point range. 

Josh Dilling was the Wolves’ only scorer to crack figures, finishing with 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting. Dilling ranks sixth in the conference in scoring average with 19.3 points per game. Teammate Moni Jacksen, who ranks fifth in the NSIC with 20.3 points per game, was held to 6 points on 1-of-9 shooting.

SMSU forced 15 Northern State turnovers while coughing it up just nine times themselves. SMSU’s defensive efforts turned into 19 points off turnovers while Northern State’s resulted in 7 points for the Wolves. Shaw led the Mustangs with five steals on the day while Cliff Cofield, Jakob Braaten and Jacksen each recorded three. 

The Mustangs scored 9 fast break points on the day while holding the Wolves scoreless on the break.

Beyond just not turning the ball over, the Mustangs were consistently able to move the ball effectively. Braaten dished out a game-high six assists without a turnover while Cofield dished out four dimes with just one turnover. The Mustangs were able to find their spots on the floor as a result and built a 40-18 advantage in points in the paint as a result.

The Mustangs were also dominant on the glass on the night, outrebounding Northern State 38-30. Phipps and Cofield led the Mustangs with nine and seven rebounds respectively. Phipps also accounted for five of SMSU’s 10 offensive rebounds.

Southwest Minnesota State improves to 11-8 overall with the win and 8-5 in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference play to hold strong at fifth in the conference. The Mustangs will next host conference-leading Minnesota State on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Mavericks are 19-1 overall on the season and 13-1 in NSIC play. 

Minnesota State’s lone loss this season came against No. 21 Minot State by a score of 81-71. The Mavericks are coming off an 81-78 win over No. 3 Minnesota State Moorhead on Saturday. When the Mustangs and Mavericks last met on Dec. 2, the Mavericks rallied in the final minute to hold off SMSU for a 93-89 win.

“We had a very good chance of winning that game and kind of let one slip,” Bigler said. “I think our guys would be kind of hungry to kind of get after it. Minnesota State’s the real deal and we’ll have to be up and ready to go. They’re on a roll, there’s no doubt about it.”


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