Despite a six-point lead at the break, the University of Minnesota, Morris men's basketball team fell 84-75 on the road to Bethany Lutheran Wednesday in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC) Tournament Semifinals.
It was a tale of two halves for the Cougars, against the UMAC regular season champions, as their 62 percent (16-of-26) shooting mark in the first half was not enough to offset their 38 percent (11-of-29) in the second.
The loss is the third of the season for Morris at the hands of Bethany Lutheran, with all three coming by single digits. The Vikings will now advance to play on Saturday against Northwestern in the UMAC Championship game, while the Cougars' season comes to an end.
Morris was firing on all cylinders in the first half, hitting 6-of-11 (55%) threes in route to a blazing mark from the floor. The defense was on point, as well, holding the Vikings to under 45 percent (15-of-34) while the Cougars went on a late run to build up their lead.
Bethany Lutheran led for much of the first half, and went up by as much as eight at 19-11 just past the midway point. With 6:32 left, they still led by five at 28-32, but then the Cougars made their run.
From there the Cougars outscored the Vikings 17-3 over a five-minute stretch to take a 40-34 lead after a Brodie Raymond three with just 1:20 left. It was one of three treys in the game for Raymond, who was one of four Cougars to finish in double figures with a team high 14.
From there the two teams traded baskets going into the break, and the Cougars led 42-36 as they went into the locker rooms.
Raymond was joined on the leader board by Zach Meyer with 13, Logan Orazem with 12, and Jeremy Burns with 10, as the Cougars finished with four players in double figures for the second time in the last three games.
The Cougars saw their lead begin to slip away early in the second, with the Vikings using a 10-0 run to go up for good, capping the run with a jumper in the paint from scoring leader Gavin Kroehler to take a 56-50 lead. Kroehler would finish with a game-high 21 points.
A lay-up by the Cougars' Brendon Foss momentarily slowed the Viking run, but they responded with seven straight to take their first double-digit lead at 63-52 with 7:13 left to play.
They would go up by as much as 18, before the Cougars made one last run. A 14-1 stretch by the Cougars, capped by three-straight free throws from Raymond, got them back within five at 77-71 with 44 seconds left, but it was too little, too late, as the Vikings closed it out at the free-throw line.
For the first time in three years, the Cougars end the season in the first round of the playoffs, having played in the last two UMAC Tournament Championship games. Meyer, Kyle Bruns, and Derek Schmidt wrapped up their careers in Cougar uniforms tonight, ending a successful four-year stretch that included four straight trips to the conference tournament.