March 17, 2009

MARSHALL, Minn. - Andy Beilke poured in a career-high 25 points to lead No. 1 seed Southwest Minnesota State to a 73-60 victory over Augustana in the Central Region championship game Tuesday night in Marshall. The Mustangs now advance to the NCAA Elite Eight in Springfield, Mass., where SMSU will play either Cal Poly-Pamona or BYU-Hawaii.

SMSU improves to 28-6, while Augie finishes its season with a 21-10 record.

"The best thing I can do is say that these seniors and group of guy that we have in our program, I could not be more happy for a group of young men for the way they committed themselves to each other," SMSU head coach Greg Stemen said. "Someone asked me one time, "who's your star?" and I said we don't have stars we have teammates and that's what these guys are and they lead by example. I want to congratulate Augustana on a great season; they are a very, very good basketball team. I'm very impressed with them. I couldn't be more happy for this group of kids."

The 28 wins ties a school record for victories in a single season; the 2001 squad, which also advanced to the Elite Eight, also won 28 games.

Beilke was spectacular in the victory, connecting of 5 of 9 free throws and going 6 of 6 from the line. Ryan Krome added 11 points.

Lee Stephens' 12 points and seven rebounds led Augie.

The Vikings held a slight lead for the opening eight minutes of the contest. But the host Mustangs showed why they were the region's top-seed team, building themselves an eight-point lead at 23-15 with just under ten minute left in the first half. SMSU settled on 34-27 lead heading into the locker room.

"First off all it's hard to see your season end, in the game of basketball you almost always end your season with a loss," said Augustana head coach Tom Billeter. "They played their tails off they're (SMSU) a very tough-hardnosed team. They play well together; they've got a solid program. Coach Stemen and his staff have done a great job. The tournament was well run and was a great experience."

That lead was extended into the second half as SMSU went ahead by as many 16 points as the championship contest came to a close.

SMSU is now a perfect 6-0 all-time in regional games.