Cougar junior Eric Dalbey rallied his team from a double-digit deficit in Crookston Saturday. Despite the big rally, the University of Minnesota, Morris fell to 1-2 on the season with an 80-75 loss to the Golden Eagles.
Dalbey finished with a career-high 32 points (24 in the second half) and pulled down eight rebounds for the Cougars. Freshman Ryan Denny contributed 11 points off the bench.
For the first 10 minutes, both teams struggled to handle the ball, creating many turnovers and a low scoring game. Head coach Paul Grove went to his bench early in hopes of providing a spark. Denny, Derek Schmidt, and Kyle Bruns responded well, scoring eight of UMM's first 10 points to cut an early seven-point deficit to just one at 12:15 mark.
The Cougars kept pace with the Eagles until late in the first half when Crookston stormed out to a 13-2 run to close the half with a 43-29 lead.
The Eagles stayed hot in the second half and increased their lead to 20 at the 8:58 mark.
Trailing by 15 with 4:44 remaining, Dalbey scored 10 points in the next three minutes to close the gap to six points.
Then, with the Eagles leading by eight with 59 seconds to go, Dalbey scored on an offensive rebound, then stole the ball and drained a three, all in a matter of 22 seconds to close the gap to three at 78-75.
After failing to intercept the inbounds pass, the Cougars had to foul to send Crookston to the free-throw line for the 80-75 lead and win.
Dalbey's shooting exploits aside, Grove said the difference in the last five minutes was defense.
"We just started playing great defense and when you do that other good things happen. You get better shots, you force the other team to make mistakes... we just waited too long."
The Cougars had a much better game on the boards, something they struggled with in their games against Concordia and Mayville State, outrebounding Crookston 31-26.
The Cougars (1-2) return to action after Thanksgiving break with a five-game home stand at the P.E. Center, starting with a rematch against Mayville State on Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m.