MEN’S BASKETBALL: Bartlett lifts SMSU to victory

MARSHALL, Minn. Joey Bartlett scored a career-high 20 points to lead Southwest Minnesota State to a 77-43 victory over Northern State on Friday night at the R/A Facility.

Bartlett accomplished his feat on 6 of 6 shooting with five 3-pointers.

“Joey Bartlett played an outstanding game. He knocked down some 3-pointers for us and had a very hot hand,”?Mustangs head coach Brad Bigler said. “His teammates also did a good job of finding open looks for him.”

Nick Smith added 15 points with a season-high nine rebounds for the Mustangs and has now scored 997 career points.

“We tried to feed Nick the ball in the second half, but he missed some 3-pointers. Hopefully, he will get his 1,000th point today at home against MSU-Moorhead,” Bigler said.

The 34-point victory is the largest margin for SMSU in the 84-game history between the two teams. The Mustangs’ previous largest win in the series occurred at the 2009 NCAA tournament in Marshall (69-47).

SMSU (8-5, 5-2 NSIC) shot 58.8 percent (30 of 51) from the field, while connecting on a season-high 10 3-pointers. NSU (10-3, 5-2 NSIC) shot just 35.4 percent (17 of 48) from the field and made just four free throws on 17 attempts.

The Wolves entered the game tied atop the NSIC North standings with MSU Moorhead.

SMSU held an 11-10 lead with 13 minutes, 32 seconds remaining in the opening half before the Mustangs put together 10-2 run over the next 2 1/2 minutes to build a 21-12 lead following a 3-pointer by Bartlett.

NSU cut the deficit to 23-16 with 5:20 left in the half before SMSU put together a game-changing run in the final five minutes of the half.

Shaun Condon started the rally with a 3-pointer and was followed a minute later by a 3-pointer by Bartlett to make the score 29-16. Following a free throw by the Wolves, SMSU reeled off nine straight points to take a 38-17 lead, before settling for a 40-20 halftime advantage.

“We made a few runs in the first half that gave us some confidence and, I think, took some energy out of Northern State,” Bigler said.

SMSU kept up the onslaught to begin the second half, pushing the lead to 49-23 with 16 minutes left in the game. Bartlett connected on a 3-pointer with 12:56 remaining to extend the lead to 57-27, and the lead never dipped below 30 points for the remainder of the game.

“I thought this game was about defense and how well we played it,” Bigler said. “It was a complete defensive effort for 40 minutes.”

Condon finished game with 11 points and five rebounds for SMSU, while Vinard Birch chipped in with eight points and seven assists and is now second in school history with 326.

Seth Bachand led NSU with seven points and seven rebounds. Tonight was the second straight game where SMSU did not allow an individual to score 10 points.

Southwest Minnesota State concludes its four-game homestand tomorrow night taking on MSU Moorhead (9-2, 5-2) with tip-off set for 7 p.m.