SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Junior forward Isaac Sevlie scored a game-high 23 points to help Minnesota State Moorhead earn an 80-68 win over Pittsburg State in the opening round of the NCAA Central Region tournament on Saturday at the Sanford Pentagon.
The record-setting season for MSUM (33-3) continued with its 33rd win while Pittsburg State ended the year at 20-12. The Dragons advance to faced No. 3-seeded Central Missouri in the second round on Sunday.
Sevlie's 23 points came on 9-for-12 shooting from the field and 5-for-7 shooting from the foul line. Sophomore forward Aaron Lien added 17 points while junior guard Ngijol Songolo had 14 points off the bench. Senior guard Jordan Riewer had six points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
The Dragons shot 54.9 percent (28-for-51) for the game while the Gorillas shot 45.3 percent (29-for-64). MSUM had a 35-28 edge in rebounds.
MSUM led for all but 46 seconds of the game, and that was when the score was tied on two separate occasions. The Dragons held a 16-15 lead with 11 minutes left in the first half but went on an 11-2 run over the next three minutes to push the lead to 27-17. Songolo led the way during that stretch with four points while Lien converted a three-point play.
The Dragons' biggest lead of the half came at the 5:13 mark of the first half when Sevlie scored to make it 33-20. Pittsburg State climbed within 40-32 at halftime.
Sevlie led MSUM with 11 points while Songolo had 10 in the first half. MSUM shot 48.3 percent (14-for-29) in the opening 20 minutes while the Gorillas shot 50 percent (14-for-28).
The Dragon lead shrunk to 48-46 five minutes into the second half, but MSUM responded with seven points in a row to push the lead to 55-46 with 10:49 left. Lien accounted for five of those points for MSUM. MSUM's lead never dropped below five the rest of the night.
MSUM hit 19 of 25 free throws (76 percent) in the game compared to nine of 14 (64.3 percent) for Pittsburg State.
Senior guard Prescott Williams had nine points for MSUM while freshman guard Tanner Kretchman had four assists off the bench.
The Dragons' next opponent, Central Missouri, is the defending Division II national champion. Central Missouri beat Northern State 82-72 on Saturday.