MEN’S BASKETBALL: Birch, Smith honored by NSIC

BURNSVILLE – The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference announced that Southwest Minnesota State University senior guard Vinard Birch and senior center Nick Smith have both been named second team All-NSIC as selected by the league’s 16 head coaches Feb. 27.

Birch, a native of Eagan, started all 31 games this season and led the Mustangs in scoring (11.7), assists (127) and steals (40). He shot 50.9 percent (147 of 289) from the field and averaged 2.4 rebounds per game.

In NSIC games, Birch finished third in the conference in assists (101), seventh in assist/turnover ratio (1.87) and ninth in steals (32).

Birch was named the 2011-12 NSIC Defensive Player of the Year.

Smith, a native of Johnston, Iowa, started all 31 games this season and leads the team in rebounding (7.1) blocked shots (53) and field goal percentage (52.8). He was second in free-throw percentage (74.7, 59 of 79) and fourth in scoring (11.0).

In NSIC play, Smith finished fourth in the conference in blocked shots (34), sixth in rebounding (7.7) and 15th in field goal pct. (51.7). Smith was also named second team All-NSIC in 2011-12.

Minnesota State junior guard Zach Monaghan was named the NSIC Player of the Year, while senior forward Kellen Taylor from Winona State was named the NSIC Defensive Player of the Year. Junior guard Brock Lutes from Bemidji State was named Newcomer of the Year, while guard Riley Bambenek from Winona State was named the Freshman of the Year. Matt Margenthaler from Minnesota State was named Coach of the Year.