Strong Second Half Sends Sioux Falls To Victory Over SMSU

Coo Men Prevail 74-56

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – On his birthday and during Thanksgiving weekend, University of Sioux Falls Men’s Basketball Head Coach Chris Johnson picked up the 200th win of his career as the Cougars recorded a 74-56 decision over Southwest Minnesota State (3-4, 0-1 NSIC) in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference opener at the Stewart Center.

At the heart of the victory was, as Johnson termed it, “a gritty performance by a bunch of guys that wanted to win.” As a result, the Cougars moved to 5-2 overall this season and opened the NSIC with a victory in their home league opener as they stand 1-0. It was also USF’s fifth win in eight NSIC home openers.

“It was a nice bounce back from Tuesday (nonconference loss to Minnesota Crookston) where I thought we played our worst game of the year and responded with our best (game) of the year. I thought we defended rebounded the ball really well. And, I thought we got back to our identity,” said Johnson, who is now 200-144 at USF and 216-159 in his career.

Leading the way for USF was redshirt sophomore forward Chase Grinde who had 19 points, seven rebounds and an assist, steal and block in 35 minutes on the floor. He hit 7-of-8 field goals and his only three-point shot. Grinde, who had his 10th career double digit scoring game, was also 4-of-6 at the foul line.

“I was really proud of the way that Chase (Grinde) performed tonight. He was assertive and played his heart out with a lot of gritty play. It is the best I have seen Chase play in a Cougars uniform,” added Johnson, who team will travel for NSIC games at Concordia St. Paul on Friday, Dec. 6 and Minnesota State on Saturday, Dec. 7.

USF also had double digits from three others which included junior guard Will Lybaek, who had 14 points for his fourth double digit game of the season. He was 5-of-8 from the floor. USF also had career-highs from both freshman guard Jack Thompson and sophomore guard Troy Houghton who both scored 10 points.  Thompson also had four rebounds, assist and a steal. Junior forward Austin Slater added eight points, nine rebounds and two assists.

USF trailed early 8-2 but rallied back to within 32-30 at halftime. In the second half, USF dominated by outscoring their travel partners, 44-24, as they improved their home mark against SMSU to 12-5 and cut the all-time series to 21-13.

Key to the game for USF was solid shooting, strong rebounding and tough defense. The Cougars, which hit 12-of-20 shots for 60 percent in the second half, made 23-of-46 shots for 50 percent. While they were just 3-of-13 on three-pointers, the Cougars converted 25-of-33 free throws for 75.8 percent while owning a 41-19 advantage on the boards. USF’s dominance on the boards was led by Grinde, Slater and Teathloach Pal, who had a game-high 13 boards along with eight points, a steal and block. Pal now has double digits in rebounds for the 10th time in his career.

SMSU, which was 19-of-49 from the field for 38.8 percent, was led by Nick Default with 17 points while Cliff McCray had 14 points. The Mustangs made 7-of-21 from three-point range and 11-of-15 from the foul line.

Recap –

In the early going Brendan Hansen and Kenny Byers hit three-point shots as SMSU took an 8-2 lead at the 16:11 mark of the first half. USF rallied with eight points from Lybaek and four off the bench from Thompson to tie the game at 17-17 with nine minutes to play.  After a pair of threes from SMSU, Lybaek reached double figures with a driving lay-up as the Cougars trailed 23-19.

With a three from Surlic, USF cut SMSU’s lead to 25-22 at the 6:31 mark. But SMSU responded with a 7-3 run and led 32-25 at the 3:09 mark after McCray converted a fast-break lay-up. But the Cougars had an answer of their own as Houghton scored on a fast-break lay-up and Pal had a pair of free throws as the Cougars trailed, 32-30, at halftime.

In the opening half, USF was just 11-of-26 for 42.3 percent from the field and made just 1-of-9 from three-point range. USF’s advantage at the foul line (7-to-2) was a key as SMSU had 54.5 percent from the floor on 12-of-22 shooting. They also had six treys but USF’s defense was crucial to staying close.

In the second half, USF had one of its best shooting efforts and with their board work and play on the defense end, took control of the game.

USF started fast in the second 20 minutes as a basket by Slater tied the game at 32 at the 19:20 mark. That basket jump-started USF to a 17-to-9 run to open the half as Grinde’s basket in the paint gave USF a 47-41 lead with 12:23 to play. USF never led by fewer than five points the rest of the way.

Baskets by Grinde (10:20, 9:18), Lybaek (8:32) and two foul shots from Thompson (7:42) helped the Cougars to a 57-46 lead. Then, Pal scored inside and Slater had a pair of foul shots as the lead grew to 61-46 with 5:54 to play. USF closed with the game’s final seven points, including five free throws as Grinde, Thompson, Surlic all cashed at the foul line as the lead extended to 18 points (74-56), which was the largest of the game.

-Recap Courtesy USF Athletics

Categories: College Sports, Colleges – Southwest Minnesota State, Colleges – University of Sioux Falls, Sports, Sports Top Story