MEN’S BASKETBALL: Smith bails out SMSU at buzzer

WAYNE, Neb. – Nick Smith drilled an 18-footer at the buzzer to lift Southwest Minnesota State to a 58-56 victory over Wayne State on Friday night.

The field goal was one of just two made by Smith on the night as he finished 2 of 4 from the field with six points and nine rebounds. He had 22 points on 8 of 12 shooting in SMSU’s 80-61 victory over the Wildcats earlier in the season on Dec. 7, 2013.

The win is the Mustangs’ third straight at Rice Auditorium and sixth overall, dating back to 2011.

SMSU (12-7 overall, 9-4 NSIC South) closed the game on an 18-9 run to erase a seven-point deficit. Vinard Birch scored eight of SMSU’s final 10 points of the game, including four from the free-throw line. Shaun Condon ended the Mustangs’ 4-minute scoring drought with a layup at 8:56. He then followed it with a 3-pointer on SMSU’s next possession to cut the Wildcat lead to 47-45.

“Our comeback started with us getting defensive stops that we converted into transition baskets,” Southwest Minnesota State head coach Brad Bigler said.

Birch’s layup at 3:41 put SMSU up one, a lead that grew to five when he capped his scoring streak of eight at the 1:37 mark. Ty Bauschek drilled a 3-pointer with 50 seconds left to pull the Wildcats within two and Adol Aluong hit two free throws with 21 seconds left to tie the ballgame.

With seconds left, Birch drove to the basket and kicked it out to an open Smith who spotted up for a jumper just beyond the free throw line that found the bottom of the net as time expired.

“Vinard made a few key plays while penetrating to the basket late in the second half,” Bigler said. “Not only can he use his quickness to get to the basket, but he’s also very strong, physically.”

The Mustangs’ scored a season low 58 points in the game and shot just 36 percent (21 of 58). Despite the low shooting percentage, four Mustangs managed to reach double-digit scoring totals, William Giddings (11), Matt Zager (11), Birch (10), Condon (10). SMSU went 1 of 9 from 3-point range in the second half.

Wayne State’s Aluong had a game-high 21 points, while Bauschek followed closely behind with 18.

The Wildcats made just five field goals in the second half after shooting 51.9 percent (14 of 27) from the floor in the first half. The last time SMSU held an opponent to less than five made field goals in a half was Dec. 11, 2009, when the Mustangs held Northern State to just three.

Wayne State (8-9 overall, 5-8 NSIC?South) missed 12 free throws and finished just 13 of 25 from the charity stripe.

SMSU will continue its weekend road swing tomorrow night versus Augustana.

“I thought Wayne State outhustled us by getting to more 50/50 balls,” Bigler said. “That’s something we need to clean up, if we expect to contend for a victory at Augustana tonight.”