Mustangs outlast Cougars in NSIC Men’s hoops

Sports

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (SMSU) – The Southwest Minnesota State University men’s basketball team rallied from a 15-point first half deficit, with Jake Phipps leading the way tying a career-high with 22 points, to earn a 70-69 victory over the University of Sioux Falls in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference opener for both teams inside the Stewart Center.

SMSU, which has now won four straight and improves to 4-1 overall, 1-0 NSIC, finished the game making 11 of 17 from 3-point range. USF, which earlier this season defeated No. 1 Northwest Missouri State, drops to 3-2 overall, 0-1 NSIC. It’s SMSU’s first four-game winning streak since November of 2018.

Phipps, named the NSIC South Division Player of the Week on Monday, made 8 of 12 field goals, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range. Kenny Byers added 16 points, eight rebounds and five rebounds, while Dunwa Omot chipped in with 13 points while making three 3-pointers.

The Mustangs finished the game shooting 46 percent (27 of 59) from the field and held a 33-32 rebound advantage. The Cougars closed the night shooting 40 percent (25 of 62), including 11 of 28 from 3-point range.

Matt Cartwright, a senior transfer from Augustana, led the Cougars with 19 points while making four 3-pointers.

The two teams played a tight opening eight minutes with SMSU holding a 14-13 advantage following the first career 3-pointer by Logan Benson. USF would answer back and score 11 straight points before Phipps stopped the run with a jumper midway through the half.

USF would continue to dominate and eventually extended the lead to 36-21 with six minutes remaining in the half.

SMSU answered back in a big way to stay in the game and eventually tied the game heading into the half time break behind outstanding 3-point shooting. Cliff McCray started the rally with a jumper before Omot drilled a 3-pointer and was followed by back-to-back 3-pointers by Phipps to cut the deficit to 36-32 at the four-minute mark. USF stopped the run with a field goal, but Byers and Phipps would drill 3-pointers in the final minute to tie the game at 36 at the break.

Phipps would give SMSU the lead early in the second half with a free throw before the Mustangs slowly built a 51-44 lead with 13:15 remaining after a Omot 3-pointer.

Anthony Costello would give SMSU a 10-point, 61-51 lead with just under eight minutes left in the game, but USF wouldn’t go away using an 11-2 run over a four-minute stretch to make the score 63-62 at the 3:30 mark following a Cartwright 3-pointer. Byers would hit a clutch field goal to give SMSU a three-point lead and following a pair of Cartwright free throws, Byers hit another field goal to stake SMSU to a 67-64 lead with 2:30 left in the game.

USF would later cut the lead to 68-67, but Phipps scored his final field goal of the game with 40 seconds left to build back a three-point cushion. USF countered with a field goal off a missed 3-pointer to pull back to within one-point with less than 30 seconds remaining. Byers was fouled with 16 seconds and moments later missed the front-end of a one-and-one, giving USF one last chance to win the game, but Jack Thompson’s shot in the final second missed and Grant Kramer secured the rebound and the victory.

Southwest Minnesota State will have its home opener on Monday, Nov. 29, stepping back into non-conference play with a 7 p.m. match-up versus Division III Minnesota Morris.

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