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Free throws the difference maker in USF’s 79-71 overtime win at U-Mary

USF Cougars
USF Cougars

BISMARCK, N.D. (KWSN): The University of Sioux Falls men’s basketball team (14-10, 11-9 NSIC) earned 31 points from the free throw line in its 79-71 overtime victory over the University of Mary before close to 1,000 at the McDowell Activity Center in Bismarck, N.D.

The Cougars rank 23rd nationally in team free throw percentage and wore their trademark suit in the OT, where they went a perfect 12-for-12 at the line to secure their first-ever NSIC weekend road sweep and spoil Senior Day for the Marauders (7-18, 5-15). Junior guard Mahlon Jones tied with U-Mary’s Marc Musungayi for game-high honors with 16 points, including a 9-for-11 effort at the stripe. Derek Brown finished with 13, including a 3-for-7 effort from beyond the arc. Charles Ward had the most remarkable of line scores, tallying 12 points on a perfect 12-for-12 night at the free throw line and chipping in three rebounds. USF led 8-3 at the first media timeout and quickly doubled-up the Marauders, 10-5, after Charles Ward knocked down a pair.  It was a sign of things to come, as six of the Cougars’ first 10 points were deposited at the line. USF head men’s coach Chris Johnson then shuffled the deck to bring in the senior guard duo of Derek Brown and Robert Goffney, which paid immediate dividends as Brown drilled his first of three triples off a Goffney dime and Mack Johnson followed to put the Cougars in front 16-5 and force U-Mary into a timeout.The Cougars held a 21-11 advantage at the midway point of the first half—a ten-minute span that also included a 15-7 USF advantage in total rebounds. USF led 37-31 at the half, with eight Cougars in the scoring column in the game’s first twenty minutes. The Cougars maintained their grasp on the lead until there was just over 12 minutes remaining in the game, where U-Mary surprised everyone with a bevy of offensive power to take a 48-44 lead with 9:39 on the clock. The Cougars responded with an 9-1 run capped by an Alex Robey jumper to turn the tables with a four point lead with 7:15 to play.  USF led by as many as six points but the home standing Marauders battled all the way back to tie the game with Damonta Henry three-pointer with six seconds left to force the game into overtime.There was more work to do, but the overtime sequence typified the desperate nature of this college basketball game and USF's calm determination to wrest it away — a relentless effort that could help the Cougars earn a hosting bid in the first round of the upcoming NSIC tournament.

USF went 0-3 from the field during overtime, but a Marauder team that was charged with 28 fouls in the contest appeared poised to make the Cougars earn it at the stripe. The Cougars have been ranked no. 1 or no. 2 in the NSIC for team free throw percentage for the majority of the season and made the Marauders pay for their ignorance of the ice water that has rushed through USF’s veins all season, as the Cougars made all 12 of their free attempts to secure the critical win.

U-Mary outrebounded USF 41-39, outshot the Cougars 41.7 percent to 35.6 percent. The Cougars won this one in the freebie department, converting 31of 36 attempts (86%), while U-Mary went just 16-for-30 at the charity stripe.

Jordan Stotts, Bryan Kielpinski and Mack Johnson posted a three-of-a-kind, with each scoring seven points in the contest. Stotts also collected a game-high eight rebounds.

With the win, USF moves into fourth place in the NSIC South Division and controls its own destiny, as the top four teams in each division earn the right to host a round game in the upcoming NSIC tournament.

The Cougars will close out the regular season next weekend, when they host Concordia-St. Paul and Minnesota State. 

Courtesy: University of Sioux Falls