Bruggeman's big day surges SMSU into NSIC semifinals

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Ryan Bruggeman scored 38 points—one shy of the tournament record—and dished out five assists with four steals to lead Southwest Minnesota State to a 75-62 victory over Bemidji State in the quarterfinals of the NSIC/Sanford Health Tournament at the Sanford Pentagon on Sunday night.

SMSU, 17-13 overall and the tournament's No. 5 seed from the South Division, will now advance to the tournament semifinals on Monday at 8 p.m. versus either St. Cloud State or Wayne State. It's the third straight season has advanced to the semifinals, winning the title in 2017 and finishing as runner-up in 2018.

BSU, which was the No. 8 seed from the North Division and advanced to tonight's game with an upset victory over Minnesota State on Wednesday, ends its season with a 10-18 record.

Bruggeman finished the game making 14 of 23 field goals, while making 9 of 9 from the free throw line. Kenny Byers added 14 points and six rebounds for the Mustangs, while teammate Braedan Hanson pulled down a game-high seven rebounds.

The Mustangs closed the game shooting 52 percent (27 of 52) from the field with seven 3-pointers, each by a different player. The Mustangs committed just eight turnovers while forcing the Beavers into 13 turnovers, which led to an 18-8 scoring edge for SMSU.

Ja Morgan poured in a team-high 23 points on 10 of 17 shooting with six rebounds and four assists to pace the Beavers. BSU, which held a 31-27 rebound advantage, shot 42 percent (23 of 55) from the field with eight 3-pointers.

SMSU used an early 9-0 run, capped by a Byers 3-pointer, to build a six-point lead in the opening two minutes.BSU rallied back and eventually held a 17-13 advantage with 8:20 left in the half as SMSU was held scoreless for more than six minutes.

BSU held a 19-13 lead with just over six minutes remaining before Bruggeman ended the scoring drought with a jumper that just beat the shot clock. Following a free throw by the Beavers, SMSU's Nick Dufault and Hanson hit on back-to-back 3-pointers to push SMSU back in front at 21-20 with 4:19 remaining.

SMSU would add to the run, eventually outscoring BSU 14-2 over a five-minute stretch, to push the lead to 27-21 with 2:34 left following a fast-break dunk by Byers.

The Beavers rallied with a 7-2 run, but Bruggeman was fouled on a final second 3-point attempt and calmly hit all three free throws to give the Mustangs a 32-28 halftime advantage.

SMSU shot 48 percent in the opening half and forced BSU into seven turnovers. Bruggeman scored 13 points on 5 of 10 shooting in the first half.

SMSU started the second half on fire, using an 11-2 run, closed off by a Kramer 3-pointer to build the lead to 45-34. Following a 3-pointer by BSU, Michael Lee drilled his only 3-pointer of the game to give the Mustangs a 48-37 advantage with 15:35 remaining in the game.

The Mustangs would maintain the lead and once again held an 11-point lead with 9:52 on the clock following a jumper from Bruggeman to make the score 57-46.

SMSU would then go cold from the field and were held scoreless for more than three and a half minutes before Bruggeman ended the drought with a layup to give SMSU a 69-61 lead with 6:11 remaining.

BSU's Logan Bader drilled a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 59-54 with 5:13 left, but Bruggeman connected on a jumper and two minutes later Taylor Schafer connected on a huge 3-pointer, his only points of the night, to push the SMSU lead to 64-54 with two minutes remaining to seal the victory.

SMSU defeated BSU earlier this season Feb. 3 by a score of 84-62.