INDIANOLA, Iowa — Sam Amsbaugh scored 21 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer in the second half, and the Simpson men's basketball team pulled away from previously undefeated Wartburg down the stretch to win 81-68 in the Iowa Conference opener Saturday.
Simpson trailed by two at halftime but shot 64 percent from the field in the second half, outscoring Wartburg 46-32 over the final 17 minutes.
"It's important to get off on the right foot, conference wise, especially with these two games before Christmas," head coach Brad Bjorkgren said. "It's one game, but we protected our home court against an undefeated team."
Ryan Skaar had 19 points, DJ Dafney had 11 and 12 rebounds and Nick Noah chipped in with 10 big points off the bench for the Storm (5-2, 1-0 Iowa Conference), who won their first conference opener since the 2011-12 season.
Down 36-35 after a pair of Nate Woeste free throws early in the second half, Amsbaugh nailed a 3 and hit back-to-back layups to give Simpson a lead it wouldn't relinquish. Wartburg cut the lead to four on four occasions, but Simpson had an answer each time.
"We made an adjustment to our motion offense in the second half and the guys bought in," Bjorkgren said. "It gave us some movement that we weren't getting in the first."
Jamie Montgomery and Brook Thompson came off the bench to hit two big 3s apiece in the second half. Each 3 by Montgomery came with Simpson holding a four-point edge and both of Thompson's came during an 11-5 spurt that put Simpson up 63-53 with under 5 minutes left.
"Those guys can make shots," Bjorkgren said. "They really gave us a lift and gave us a little bit wider of a margin with their made 3s."
Woeste led the Knights (6-1, 1-1) with 19 points, Jaran Sabus had 10 and 12 rebounds and Jordan Cannon added 10.
Simpson tried to run away with the game early, mounting an 11-0 run capped off by one Skaar's three 3-pointers to make it 19-8. But Wartburg responded with a 12-0 run of its own and neither team led by more than four until Amsbaugh's layup with 14:49 to play gave Simpson a 42-36 lead.
The Storm play their final conference game of 2016 when they travel to Luther on Wednesday, Dec. 7. The Norse (1-6, 0-2) lost to Coe 60-58 on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m.