One last ride

Mustangs to honor seniors Cofield, Luedtke, Phipps Saturday

Photo by Jake McNeill Southwest Minnesota State guard Cliff Cofield (front) drives to the rim during a mens basketball game against Northern State on Jan. 27. Cofield, along with two other SMSU seniors, will be playing his final regular-season home game with the team on Saturday.

After picking up its second and third consecutive wins last weekend, the Southwest Minnesota State mens basketball team will host No. 13 Minnesota State Moorhead and No. 24 Minot State (N.D.) this weekend in the hopes of ending the season on a winning streak. The Mustangs will honor its three seniors — Cliff Cofield, Jake Phipps and Kyle Luedtke — prior to tip-off on Saturday in what could be their final home game.

Phipps is just the eighth player in Mustang history with 1,000 points in 700 rebounds in his career. Cliff Cofield also surpassed the 1,000-point mark earlier this season in the Jan. 6 matchup against St. Cloud State.

With last weekend’s wins over St. Cloud State and Bemidji State, SMSU improved to 16-10 overall and 13-7 against Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference opponents this year. The wins moved them to fifth place in the NSIC, one game back of Minot State and three games back of Moorhead. The Mustangs need to sweep their home games this weekend in order to get a first-round bye in the NSIC tournament.

Cofield led SMSU to a 65-52 win over St. Cloud State on Friday, scoring 14 points and tying Phipps with a team-high seven rebounds, while Phipps scored a game-high 21 points with six rebounds in the Mustangs’ 63-56 win over Bemidji State on Saturday. Phipps’ play earned him a spot on the NSIC’s Shining 5 Players of the Week. SMSU also held St. Cloud to 28.6% from the field, the lowest mark by an opponent all season.

Phipps ranks 12th in the NSIC this year with 15.6 points per game on an ultra-efficient 58.5% effective field goal percentage. His overall field goal percentage, 56.4%, is second in the NSIC to Bemidji State’s John Sutherland at 59.1%. His 6.7 rebounds per game are also good for 11th in the NSIC.

The Beavers have put together a quality season, sitting at 19-7 overall and 14-6 in conference this year. Yet, they have been slumping over the last two weeks. Before a win over Concordia-St. Paul on Thursday, Minot State had lost three consecutive games to MSU Moorhead, St. Cloud State and No. 12 Minnesota Duluth. Still, a 70-67 win over the Golden Bears — led by a 13-point, five-assist game from Ben Bohl — may have been just what the Beavers needed to snap back into form.

Minot held off SMSU for a 72-60 win when they last met in Minot earlier this season. Dunwa Omot led SMSU with 15 points on 3 of 5 shooting from beyond the arc in the loss while Khari Broadway had 20 points in the win for MInot. Connor Hollenbeck also contributed 14 points and five assists.

Minot has run one of the slower offenses in the NSIC this year. Their 47.9% field goal percentage is good for third in the NSIC and their 37.9% 3-point percentage leads the league. Yet, they rank just sixth in terms of points per game at 78.5. On the defensive end, however, they’ve consistently been able to frustrate opposing offenses. Minot State’s 42% opponent field goal percentage and 67.9 points allowed per game both rank second in the NSIC. SMSU leads the league in both categories with 67.9 points allowed on 41.1% shooting.

The game will largely be decided by how much SMSU can compete with the Beavers on the boards. Minot State is fourth in the conference in rebounding margin, sitting at plus-4.5, while SMSU ranks just 11th at plus-0.9. Hollenbeck and Michael Jok both are among the top 20 individual rebounds in the NSIC, averaging 6.9 and 6.0 rebounds per game.

Broadway has remained the team’s scoring leader with 13.5 points per game, though Hollenbeck, Bohl and Jaxon Gunville each also average double figures. In addition to his scoring contributions, Broadway is also a defensive force for the Beavers with 1.3 steals per game, ranking eighth in the NSIC.

Minot State has built a plus-1.15 turnover margin on the year while SMSU ranks eighth in the conference at plus-0.15. Cofield is eying a conference steals title, leading the league with 1.9 steals per game, while Jakob Braaten averages another 1.3 to clock in at No. 6. Phipps also has been a major factor for the Mustangs at the rim with 1.2 blocks per game, good for third in the NSIC.

Moorhead will bring another rim protector to town on Saturday as Jacob Jennissen ranks fifth in the NSIC with 1.1 blocks per game.

Still, the Dragons’ calling card this season has been their offense. Led by Jacob Beeninga’s 17.5 points per game on a 43.4% effective field goal percentage, MSU Moorhead has put together the fourth-highest-scoring offense in the NSIC this season. Ja’Kair Sanchez has also helped provide some efficient scoring with 12.7 points per game on 48.8% eFG.

The Dragons have been on a roll as of late, winning five in a row prior to Saturday’s loss to Augustana. Beeninga had 22 points while Dane Zimmer had an 11-point, 13-rebound double-double in the streak-ending loss. It was Zimmer’s second double-double of the weekend after he scored 16 points with 11 rebounds and a pair of blocks in a win over Wayne State (Neb.) on Friday, also earning him a spot on the Shining 5.

At the time of print, Zimmer ranks second in the NSIC with 9.3 rebounds per game, trailing only Bemidji State’s Dalton Albrecht at 10.3. His 2.5 offensive rebounds per game also tie him with Phipps for fourth in the conference.

As a team, MSU Moorhead ranks third in the NSIC in offensive rebounds per game with 11.1. SMSU is 13th in the conference at 8.6.

SMSU came up just shy in its last matchup against Moorhead. Aeron Stevens hit a pair of free throws at the end of regulation to force overtime. In the overtime period, Dunwa Omot hit a go-ahead free throw with 10 seconds to play but Beeninga clutched a jumper in the paint to give the then-No. 1 Dragons an 88-87 win.

Friday’s game against Minot State will tip off at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday’s game against Minnesota State Moorhead will begin at 5:30 p.m. Live stats and video broadcasts of the games are available online at SMSUmustangs.com and a radio broadcast can be found on 105.1 FM KARL.


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