The University of Minnesota, Morris will host the opening round of the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference men's basketball tournament on Wednesday, Feb. 23.
The Cougars earned the No. 2 seed and will host No. 3 Bethany Lutheran at 7:30 p.m. The Cougars have defeated the Vikings twice this season, including a 78-59 win on Jim Gremmels Court.
The Cougars finish the regular season 14-11 overall with a 10-4 UMAC record, their best conference mark since the 2004-05, 11-win championship team.
St. Scholastica 73
The Cougars overcame a halftime deficit Friday, Feb. 18, to defeat host St. Scholastica 76-73 while also securing the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference Tournament berth.
The Cougars began the game with their status for the post-season still uncertain, but after the win over the Saints - coupled with a Bethany Lutheran loss - the Cougars have locked up the No. 2 seed.
The Cougars trailed by five at halftime 39-34, after St. Scholastica shot a blazing 59 percent (17-of-29) from the field in the first half.
Coming out of the break, the Cougars answered back with nine straight points and went up 43-39 after a Daniel Fragodt put-back at the 17:22 mark. The rebound was one of a game-high nine for Fragodt, while adding seven points.
After taking over the lead, the Cougars would never trail again. Twice the Saints managed to tie the score, but each time the Cougars answered. First, after being knotted up 46-46 at the 14:57 mark Eric Dalbey connected for three of his 14 points, and again at 7:35 with things all squared up at 59-59, Steve Birman sank a jumper to put the Cougars up for good.
Birman finished with a team-high 21 points, hitting double figures for the first time since the first day of the month, while having his highest mark since Jan. 21. He carried the Cougars in the first half, pouring in 19 points before the break. In the second, it was Dalbey who led the charge, as the senior scored all 14 of his points in the second half.
The Saints' Danny Schmitz led all scorers with 28 points in a 10-of-15 night, which included six three-pointers.
Derek Schmidt, with 12, was the only other Cougar in double figures.
The Saints finished shooting 53 percent (31-of-59) from the floor, the best mark of the season for a Morris opponent in a game where the Cougars won. The difference tonight came at the free-throw line, where Morris had its best game of the season, finishing 19-of-21. Conversely, the Saints went to the charity stripe just five times.
The Cougars closed out the regular season with an 88-74 road win over host Northland Saturday.
It was the first time all season that the Cougars have charted consecutive road victories on back-to-back nights. The only other time the Cougars finished with consecutive road wins was the opening weekend of the season, with the wins coming two nights apart.
The LumberJacks were the only team to enter the weekend out of UMAC Tournament contention. They shot a red hot 56 percent (29-of-53) from the field, but hit just one three-pointer all night, while the Cougars thrived behind the arc with 10 in the game.
Dalbey had his best game of the season, leading all players with 25 points on a 5-of-10 shooting night, all from long range. He also went 10-of-11 at the free throw line, as the Cougars shot a UMAC-high 37.
Dalbey was one of four Cougars in double-figures as he was joined by Schmidt with 17, Fragodt with 13, and Tom Barrett with 10.
Dalbey opened the game with back-to-back threes and quickly the Cougars were up 6-0. A Fragodt lay-up at 15:12 gave the Cougars a 10-point lead for the first time, and at 9:04 they moved ahead by 20-points after a Barrett bucket.
The LumberJacks were able to come all the way back within eight in the second half, after an Adrian Flores basket at the 4:52 mark made the score 35-27.
After taking a 10-point lead into halftime the Cougars worked their lead all the way to 16 before Northland whittled it all the way down to three at 68-65 with just 6:36 left to play. Morris answered with five straight - all from Dalbey - and were back up eight at 73-65, just 40 seconds later.
Northland would not get within five the rest of the way.