No. 24 Northwest Missouri State jumped to an early double-digit lead and held off a late Southwest Minnesota State charge to earn a 74-62 victory at the Northwest Missouri State Classic on Sunday afternoon.
NWMSU (5-0), which won its conference title last season and appeared in the NCAA Tournament, never trailed in the game and finished shooting 44 percent from the field and connecting on eight 3-pointers.
SMSU (3-4) was led by Nick Smith who finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots. Lavione West added 13 points on 5 of 7 shooting off the SMSU bench. Jordan Miller rounded out SMSU’s double figure scorers with 11 points. SMSU shot 46 percent from the field and committed 12 turnovers.
The Mustangs played without starting point guard Vinard Birch, who missed the game with an injury suffered in yesterday’s victory over Central Missouri.
The Bearcats jumped out to a 15-6 lead in the game’s first seven minutes and eventually took its largest lead of the half at 21-8 with 11 minutes left in the half.
SMSU would get no closer than eight points the rest of the half as NWMSU took a 38-29 lead into the halftime break.
A layup by Tramel Barnes cut the NWMSU lead to 44-37 with 17 minutes left in the game, but the Bearcats rallied with an 11-2 run in the next three and a half minutes to take their largest lead of the game at 55-39.
SMSU quickly answered with a seven straight points, capped by a Matt Zager field goal to cut the margin to 55-46, but NWMSU responded with a quick 6-0 run to push the lead to 61-46 with 9:39 remaining.
The Mustang defense held the Bearcats to just four points in the next six and a half minutes and SMSU was able to take advantage as Jordan Buddenhagen connected on back-to-back 3-pointers to trim the deficit to 65-60 with three minutes left in the game.
The teams exchanged field goals to make the score 67-62 at the 2:37 mark, before Northwest’s DeAngelo Hailey connected on a 3-pointer with 1:52 remaining to push the lead to 70-62. SMSU wouldn’t score again and NWMSU sealed the victory with four free throws in the final 90 seconds.
Hailey led the Bearcats off the bench with a game-high 20 points on 7 of 15 shooting, while also grabbing six rebounds and two steals.
NWMSU held a 39-28 rebound advantage, which included 14 offensive rebounds and 14 second chance points.
Southwest Minnesota State returns to action on Saturday, Dec. 1, opening up Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference play at home taking on the University of Sioux Falls with tip-off slated for 7 p.m. at the R/A Facility.
Courtesy: Kelly Loft, SMSU