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USF Head Coach Chris Johnson Ties All-Time Mark

SIOUX FALLS – A sizzling offensive display by the University of Sioux Falls Men’s Basketball Team (13-9, 9-5 NSIC) led to a 93-70 victory over Concordia-St. Paul (4-17, 1-13, NSIC) on Saturday night at the Stewart Center.

The victory was USF head coach Chris Johnson’s 154th (154-114) career win, which tied him with Shane Murphy for the all-time wins lead at the school. He also coached in his 299th career game (170-129). With the win, USF, which has won 9-of-11 games, moved to 13-9 on the season and 9-5 in league play (3rd, NSIC South).

From the start, the Cougars aimed to rebound from a tough loss to Minnesota State (68-67) on Friday night. It began with USF’s starting five, which hit 31-of-41 shots as the Cougars made 65.5 (38-58) percent for the game, including 71.4 percent (20-of-28) in the opening half.

In fact, USF made its first 10 shots of the game as they opened up a 23-4 lead and were never threatened. USF led 54-24 at halftime before CSP outscored USF, 46-40 in the second stanza.

It was really great to see us come out like that,” said Johnson. “After a tough loss, they showed extraordinary ability to rebound and play hard. They were really good tonight and not just on the offensive end. We really guarded which led to the big halftime lead,” he said.

Sophomore forward Drew Guebert reached double figures in scoring for the 30th time in his career with 23 points, three assists, four rebounds and two steals. He hit 9-of-14 shots, including tying a career-high with five three-pointers on eight attempts. Guebert scored 20 points for the eighth time this season and 11 overall in his career.

In total, USF converted 12-of-24 from distance, the largest output since making 14 in a win over Winona State on Jan. 7 at the Stewart Center. Senior guard Clint Thomas played a big role in the three-point shooting as he hit 3-of-5 and scored 19 points. Thomas was 8-of-10 from the floor and added four rebounds and two assists. Another big contributor was junior guard Zach Wessels, the reigning NSIC South Division Player of the Week, with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists. Wessels hit 8-of-9 shots from the floor. Senior guard Kebu Johnson had a season-high with 11 points, adding four rebounds and three assists.

The Cougars also welcomed back senior captain Mack Johnson, who had missed two straight games due to injury. He had 11 points as he make 3-of-5 from three-point range and dished out four assists in 19 minutes of action. Johnson reached double digits for the 72nd time in his career and pushed his all-time point total of 1,488 as he closes in on 1,500 for his career. The school’s career leader in three-pointers, he now has 215 in his career.

While the offense had its biggest output since scoring 100 points (100-65) in a win over Concordia-Wisconsin on Nov. 19, the defense did its part. USF, the league’s top defense, held CSP to 37.5 percent shooting (21-of-56) from the floor, while recording seven steals and recording a pair of blocks.

The Golden Bears, which made 9-of-22 three-pointers, also hit 19-of-22 free throws. Another key for USF’s success against CSP was its sharing of the basketball and avoidance of turnovers. The Cougars had 19 assists with just seven turnovers.

Leading CSP in scoring was Sam Siganos with 15 points while Bryndan Matthews added 13.

USF roared out to a 23-4 lead after Thomas banged in a three-pointer at the 13:43 mark. Thomas’s shot was the 10th straight make out of the gate for USF. While USF missed on its next possession, they Cougars continued to press the issue as three straight three-pointers, including two by M. Johnson, pushed the lead to 34-15 with 9:40 to play in the half. When Guebert canned a trey (7:19), and Wessels (6:03) and K. Johnson (5:36) made driving lay-ups, USF’s lead grew to 41-18. Later, Guebert had a run of five straight points to increase the advantage to 51-21 with 1:51 to play. The Cougars, which recorded its second highest point total in the first half this year, took a 53-24 advantage to the break after M. Johnson made a pair of free throws.

In the second half, CSP fought back as they used a 27-19 run to cut USF’s advantage to 72-51 at the 9:41 mark when Max Keefe, who scored 10 points, had a tip-in. The Golden Bears, which made 7-of-13 three-pointers in the second half, trimmed the margin to 81-65 with 4:15 to play on a lay-up by Matt Ambriz. But Guebert stopped the run with five straight points as USF reestablished a 21-point lead at 86-65 (3:25).

A three-pointer from Jacoby Odegaard closed out the scoring for USF, which improved its all-time series to 10-4, including 6-3 in NSIC play, against CSP.

USF will now continue its four-game home stand by hosting Northern State at 8 p.m. on Friday and MSU-Moorhead at 6 p.m. on Saturday at the Stewart Center.

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