The University of Minnesota, Morris men's basketball team is moving on to the 2011 Upper Midwest Athletic Conference championship game, after a 74-66 win over Bethany Lutheran Wednesday on Jim Gremmels Court.
UMM now moves on to face Northwestern in the UMAC Tournament Championship game on Saturday, Feb. 26 in St. Paul. The Cougars return to the championship game after winning the tournament last season.
For visiting Bethany Lutheran the game marked the end of the road, as the Vikings fall to the Cougars for the third time this season. They didn't go away easy, though, fighting back from a 12-point second half deficit.
After trailing 41-29 at the 16:13 mark, the Vikings put together a 25-12 run to take their first lead of the game at 54-53 with 9:02 left to play. Two Kyle Bruns free throws quickly gave Morris back the lead, and after a crowd pleasing four-point play from Eric Dalbey, the Cougars were up six at 63-57 with 6:23 left.
Dalbey had a quiet game by his standards finishing with 11 points, but still hit a pair of threes with the biggest coming with the foul. His free throw capped a 6-0 run, and the Cougars soon learned how important each point was.
The Vikings cut the lead back to one at 65-64 with just 2:07 left, but forced to foul late, could not catch up as Dalbey, Steve Birman, and Daniel Fragodt combined to hit seven straight free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Dalbey went 5-of-5 at the line, playing in his final game on Jim Gremmels Court. Also in his final home game, Fragodt led all players with seven rebounds, along with seven points and four assists.
Birman finished with 17 in the strength of a 9-of-9 night at the line, while Derek Schmidt led all players with 20 points.
The stats were even mostly across the board with the difference coming at the charity stripe, where the Cougars went 28-of-33 compared to just 11-of-12 for the Vikings.
The UMAC runner-up in the regular season, the Cougars will shoot for their ultimate goal on Saturday when they take on regular season champ Northwestern with a berth in the NCAA Tournament on the line.
Tip off from St. Paul is set for 7:00 p.m.