NCAA BASKETBALL: Mustangs drop doubleheader at St. Cloud State

ST. CLOUD, Minn. Southwest Minnesota State nearly rallied from a 17-point first half deficit, but St. Cloud State made clutch free throws late in the game to earn a hard-fought 91-83 victory on Friday night in NSIC men’s basketball at Halenbeck Hall.

SMSU (9-6, 6-3 NSIC), which had its four-game winning streak snapped, trailed 34-17 with six minutes and 30 seconds left in the first half, but rallied back and cut the deficit to 73-71 with three minutes left, but SCSU (10-3, 6-3 NSIC) made enough plays down the stretch to seal the win. The 91 points are the most allowed by SMSU this season.

SMSU shot a season-high 64 percent (32 of 50) from the field, but made just 3 of 9 from 3-point range and connected on only 16 of 25 free throws. SMSU also committed 17 turnovers and was out-rebounded 29-27, including allowing 12 SCSU offensive rebounds. The Mustangs shot 71 percent (20 of 28) in the second half, marking the third time this season the team has shot 70 percent or higher in a half.

Shaun Condon led SMSU with 15 points with 13 coming in the second half on 5 of 10 shooting with two 3-pointers. Vinard Birch scored 14 points and dished out five assists, while Nick Smith (13) and Matt Zager (12) also both scored in double figures. Mitch Weg led SMSU with seven rebounds.

Damarius Cruz tied a career-high with 25 points to pace SCSU, while Chris Larson came off the bench to score a career-high 18 points. SCSU shot 51 percent (31 of 61) from the field with seven 3-pointers.

SCSU started the game red-hot connecting on 11 of its first 20 shots, with three 3-pointers, to build a 27-10 lead with 10 minutes left in the first half. SMSU slowly worked its way back into the game, putting together a 9-3 run, to trim the SCSU lead to 37-26 at the 4:21 mark. SCSU pushed the lead back to 15 points on two more occasions before settling for a 44-31 halftime lead.

SMSU shot 54.5 percent (12 of 22) from the field in the first half, but was 0 for 3 from 3-point range, committed nine turnovers and made just 7 of 14 free throws. SCSU ended the first half with five 3-pointers and committed just four turnovers.

The Mustangs continued to cut into the lead to start the second half, cutting the deficit to single digits following a layup by Weg with 17:30 remaining to make the score 46-37. SMSU wouldn’t go away and pulled to within 54-52 with 12:20 on the clock putting together an 8-0 run. Condon drilled a 3-pointer and followed that with a conventional three-point play, before Smith capped the run with a layup.

SMSU kept coming and SCSU and cut the lead to 59-58 following a Birch jumper with 8:47 remaining, but the Huskies answered right back with an 8-2 run to make the score 67-60. SMSU continued to fight back and cut the deficit to two points on three more occasions, including 73-71 with 3:00 left on a slam dunk in transition by William Giddings.

That’s as close as SMSU would come though, as SCSU made 14 free throws in the final three minutes and a pair of field goals, to hold on for the victory.

Southwest Minnesota State will continue its weekend road trip tomorrow night taking on Minnesota Duluth (6-7, 4-5 NSIC) starting at 6 p.m.

WOMEN

St. Cloud State 65,

SW Minnesota State 62

ST. CLOUD, Minn. St. Cloud State snapped a three-game losing streak, connecting on six free throws in the final two minutes of the game, to rally for a 65-62 victory over Southwest Minnesota State in women’s basketball on Friday night at Halenbeck Hall.

SMSU, which suffered its 11th straight loss, was led by Rebekah Rolling with 17 points, four steals and four rebounds. Ellen Degler added a season-high 16 points on 8 of 11 shooting, while Mikayla Saathoff also had a strong game with 10 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. It’s the first career double-double for Saathoff.

SMSU (2-11, 0-9 NSIC) played the game without leading scorer and rebounder, Alison Nagel, who suffered an injury in practice on Thursday.

SMSU used an early 7-0 run to build a 9-3 lead in the game’s first six and a half minutes, before SCSU (9-4, 5-4 NSIC) rallied with a 16-5 to take a 19-14 advantage at the 9:49 mark. The Mustangs trailed 21-16 with nine minutes left in the half before a Degler field goal and a three-point play by Bree Holleman tied the game at 21.

SMSU would regain the lead at 25-23 with the 6:13 remaining following an Emilee Duske field goal. The teams would then exchange the lead several times for the remainder of the half before Degler gave SMSU a halftime lead connecting on her sixth field goal of the half to make the score 33-32.

Degler led SMSU with 12 first half points on 6 of 8 shooting with five rebounds.

SMSU maintained the lead for much of the first five minutes of the second half with Saathoff giving SMSU a 41-37 lead with 14:37 left. SCSU rallied with nine straight points to take a 46-41 advantage with 12:39 remaining, before SMSU answered with a 12-2 run over the next 3:45 to build a 53-48 lead with eight minutes left.

SCSU came back and used a short 5-0 run near the four-minute mark to regain the lead at 59-57. Rolling made one of two free throws moments later and was followed by two free throws by Saathoff to give SMSU a 60-59 lead, before the SCSU went back in front on a pair of Jessica free throws with 1:49 remaining.

On SMSU’s next possession, Rolling missed a jumper and SCSU was able to secure the rebound. SCSU made two free throws on its next possession to build a 63-60 advantage, before SMSU cut the deficit to 63-62 on a jumper from Hannah Beeler with 25 seconds remaining. SMSU was forced to foul and SCSU’s Sam Price who entered the game shooting 96 percent from the foul line made both free throws to give the Huskies a 65-62 lead with 12 second left. Following timeouts by both squads, SMSU had one final attempt to tie the game, but Holleman’s 3-pointer from the left wing rimmed out and SCSU held on for its seventh straight win over SMSU.

SMSU ended the night shooting 45 percent (23 of 52) from the field, including 3 of 11 from 3-point range. The Mustangs held a 41-32 rebound advantage, but committed 24 turnovers, including 14 in the second half.

Southwest Minnesota State continues its two-game road trip tomorrow taking on Minnesota Duluth (8-5, 5-4 NSIC) with tip-off slated for 4 p.m. in Duluth.