SMSU men lose heartbreaker to Winona State

Winona State scored four points in the final 13 seconds of regulation and the final seven points in overtime to pull out a 91-83 victory over the Southwest Minnesota State men’s basketball team Friday night in Winona.

SMSU had a 10-point lead at halftime and was up four points with 20 seconds left in regulation before suffering its second heartbreaking loss in three games. The Mustangs also lost a late lead against No. 21 Minnesota State-Mankato on Dec. 14.

A defensive breakdown gave Winona State’s Taylor Cameron an easy layup with 13 seconds left to cut the lead to two, then Nick Smith missed the first free throw on a one-and-one that allowed the Warriors to get a final shot. SMSU guard Vinard Birch fouled Cameron with six seconds left and Cameron made both free throws to send the game to overtime, where the Warriors eventually pulled away.

“I didn’t feel like our guys were tight necessarily,” said SMSU head coach Brad Bigler, “but I do feel like we have moments in a game where we go away from what we do. In the second half we had a stretch where we let them get back in the game by taking bad shots and turning the ball over and that gave them momentum to get back in it.”

Preseason Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Player of the Year Clayton Vette, a 6-foot-9 center, scored a game-high 29 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while Cameron finished with 24 points. Bigler said the Mustangs double-teamed Vette all night.

Winona State (10-3 overall, 4-2 NSIC) has now won 17 straight regular season games over SMSU (6-7, 3-3) since the 2002-03 season.

The Mustangs had six different players score in double figures and shot 55.9 percent from the field for the game, so offense certainly wasn’t an issue in the loss. Lavione West came off the bench to score a team-high 15 points, Smith finished with 14, Matt Zager scored 13, and Jordan Miller and William Giddings each had 12. Tramel Barnes chipped in 11 points, four assists and four steals.

Where the Mustangs struggled was on the glass. They were out-rebounded 43-28.

SMSU will go up against another good rebounding team today when they take on the Upper Iowa Peacocks in Fayette, Iowa.