MEN’S BASKETBALL: Birch sends SMSU past Augustana with late field goal

MARSHALL – Vinard Birch hit the game-winning shot 10.5 second remaining to lift Southwest Minnesota State to an 85-84 victory over Augustana in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference men’s basketball on Friday night at the R/A Facility.

Birch finished the night with 18 points on 8 of 12 shooting with four assists and three rebounds.

SMSU snapped a two-game losing streak improving to 3-4 overall, 1-1 NSIC. Augustana drops to 3-3 overall, 1-1 NSIC.

SMSU trailed 80-76 with less than two minutes remaining in the game, before William Giddings, who scored 18 points, cut the deficit to 80-78 with a pair of free throws with 1:49 remaining. Following a missed jumper by the Vikings, SMSU tied the game on Gidding’s field goal at the 1:18 mark.

Augustana answered with a basket by Daniel Jansen to make the score 82-80 with just over a minute left in the contest.

Birch then gave SMSU the lead with a three-point play, scoring on a layup and hitting a free throw to push the Mustangs back into the lead at 83-82 with 51 seconds remaining.

Augustana missed two shots on its next possession, but picked-up a pair of key offensive rebounds before the Vikings’ Evan Pierce was fouled with 29 seconds on the clock, hitting both free throws to give Augustana an 84-83 advantage.

On SMSU’s next possession, Matt Zager missed a potential go-ahead basket, but the rebound went out-of-bounds off of the Vikings keeping the ball with SMSU. Birch broke free seconds later and hit a 15-foot jumper to give the Mustangs the lead.

Following a timeout, Augustana had one last chance for the victory but Matt Brazendale’s field goal was off the mark and Birch came down with the rebound to seal the victory.

SMSU finished the game shooting 54 percent (34 of 63) from the field, including 6 of 12 from 3-point range. SMSU held a 42-28 rebound margin and committed a season-low nine turnovers. Augustana shot 47.8 percent (33 of 69) from the field with 13 3-pointers on 24 attempts and committed just four turnovers. Jansen led the Vikings with a game-high 20 points.

Giddings made 6 of 8 shots in the game finishing with 18 points, while grabbing seven rebounds. Zager added 17 points on 7 of 11 shooting with a pair of 3-point field goals. Joey Bartlett scored a career-high 12 points, while Shaun Condon chipped in with 10 points to help SMSU earn the victory.

SMSU closes out the weekend tomorrow night hosting Wayne State at 7 p.m.