The Minnesota Morris men's basketball team won two Upper Midwest Athletic Conference games at home over the weekend.
The wins move UMM into second place in the UMAC standings. Saturday's victory over St. Scholastica is the Cougars' fifth straight in the friendly confines of the P.E. Center.
The Cougars close out the home schedule next weekend with Martin Luther and Bethany Lutheran on Feb. 4 and 5, respectively
The Cougars never trailed Friday, Jan. 28 in posting their most lopsided win of the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference season with an 89-51 victory over visiting Northland.
Eric Dalbey nailed a three on the Cougars' first possession and they never looked back. UMM drained a season-high nine three-pointers - four from Dalbey - while shooting 51 percent (34-of-67) from the floor. Every player in uniform played at least 10 minutes, with every player also scoring.
Northland dropped their fifth straight and their 10th in the last 11 games. They were led by Eric Krall with just 11 points, and he was their only player in double figures. The Jacks shot well in the first half, hitting 48 percent (12-of-25) of their shots, but hit on just 33 percent (10-of-30) in the second.
For a team that has had trouble starting at times this season, it was proof of what the Cougars can do with a good start.
"We started out and came out with intensity for the first time in a long time and we just kind of buried them right away," Dalbey said. "They were missing one of their really good players, but we played them real tough, just played well and kept going. Then the subs came in and did the same thing and got the W."
By the 11:58 mark the Cougars were already up by double-digits after a pair of Dalbey free throws made it 24-13. Then a Ben Hoidal three put the Cougars up 20 at the 3:28 mark, and after a Brendon Foss jumper in the final minute they took a 23-point lead into the locker room at 51-28.
The 51 points were the most put up in a half by the Cougars since the season opener.
After roaring past the half-century mark in the first period, the Cougars pushed their lead up to 30 just eight minutes into the second, when Hoidal sank a pair of free throws to make it 68-38 at the 12:00 mark. The Cougars finished 12-of-17 at the line, compared to just 4-of-7 for the LumberJacks as UMM committed a season low nine fouls all night.
From there the starters got a well deserved rest, as the reserves played out the string. Despite the change in personnel, the results were much the same, as the lead continued to grow and finished at its widest after four straight Evan Reller points to close the game. The Cougar bench scored 26 total points, including a career-high tying 10 from Reller.
It was not just scoring, however, as the Cougars controlled both ends of the floor, pulling down 44 rebounds while limiting the LumberJacks to 24. The +20 margin on the boards was the Cougars' best in UMAC play, and second best on the season behind only their +21 margin from Tuesday night against Trinity Bible.
St. Scholastica 68
The Cougars led for just 31 seconds Saturday, Jan. 29 until taking the lead for good in the final minute to come back from as much as 15 down for a 73-68 win over St. Scholastica.
The visiting Saints quickly jumped out to a 10-point lead, and by the midway point of the first half were up by as much as 15. St. Scholastica shot better than 55 percent (15-of-27) from the floor in the first half, while also forcing UMM into nine turnovers that resulted in 12 first-half Saint points.
The Cougars closed the gap to just six heading into the locker room, and spent the second half continually chipping away at the Saints' lead. Just when it looked as if five would be as close as they would get, the Cougars closed the game on a 14-0 run for the hard-fought victory.
It certainly did not come easy, though. The Cougars found themselves in the same position to start the second, as they did to start the first. The Saints came out of halftime on an 8-1 run to push their lead back to 13 at 49-36 at the 16:22 mark. And after a Tom Barrett bucket to halt the rally, CSS quickly answered to go back up 13 with 14:36 left to play.
Barrett scored six second-half points, to go along with eight in the first half to finish in double figures for the fourth time in five games, with the 14 points also marking his second highest tally of the season.
A Foss lay-in under the basket at the 13:42 mark finally got the score within 10 at 51-42, but later in the half a St. Scholastica three pushed the margin back to double figures at 67-56 with just 5:09 left.
Less than 10 seconds later Barrett hit his third three-pointer of the game and the Cougar run was on. Trailing eight at 67-59 with 5:00 to go, the Cougars allowed just a single free throw to the Saints the rest of the way.
Daniel Fragodt and Dalbey combined to score 13 of the final 14 points, with Dalbey sinking the two free throws to put UMM over the top. Fragodt led the Cougars with 17 points.
Over the final five minutes the Cougars forced the Saints into nine missed shots, while also pulling down four offensive rebounds to keep their possessions alive. The Cougars scored 13 second-chance points, and held the Saints to just a 30 percent (9-of-30) mark from the floor in the second half