SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KWSN) – Saturday’s regular season finale against Concordia-St. Paul could have easily been a letdown for the University of Sioux Falls men’s basketball team after last night’s heart-breaking loss to No. 17 Minnesota State.
But any residual fatigue or disappointment was nonexistent for the Cougars (15-11, 12-10 NSIC), who clawed their way back from a second half deficit and held off Concordia-St. Paul in overtime for a 95-90 victory in front of a supportive Senior Day crowd at the Stewart Center.
Head coach Chris Johnson relied heavily on senior leadership to get past the resilient Golden Bears (8-18, 5-17 NSIC) and it was only fitting for Derek Brown to play the game of his life in his Stewart Center finale. The senior shooting guard scored a game and career-high 32 points on 9-for-16 shooting- including 12 of USF’s 21 points in overtime. Brown hit six of his ten three-point attempts and the league’s best free throw shooter went a perfect 8-for-8 from the line.
Late in the second half, the pride of Clark, S.D., calmly toed the stripe and drained two free throws to join USF’s 1,000 point club.
It was also the play of fellow senior Robert Goffney (10 points) and redshirt junior Bryan Kielpinski (10 points, 8 rebounds, 5 blocks) that came up big down the stretch. In addition, junior Charles Ward (13) and sophomore Jordan Stotts (13) answered the bell for the Cougars' 2014 senior class of Derek Brown, Robert Goffney and Alex Robey.
The Cougars quickly went to the paint after missing their first two shots from long range. Mahlon Jones showed his flair with a switch-handed mid air layup he touched off the glass to give USF a 10-4 advantage at the 15 minute mark of the first half. The Cougars couldn’t buy a long-range basket in the opening minutes so they fed the ball inside, scoring their first 12 points in the paint. USF led 14-9 after Brown considered a three but drove the lane for a backwards layup but Concordia answered on the other end. But for all the acrobatic plays executed by the Cougars, Concordia trailed just 14-13 at the 10:37 mark.
A Cougar team known for its shooting prowess at the line (76.5% as a team) and from distance was 0-for-3 at the stripe and 1-4 from deep midway through the first half. Concordia took their first lead of the game at 21-19 under seven to play and the teams exchanged points but the Golden Bears ended the half on a 9-5 run to take a 32-28 lead to the locker room.
The Cougars shot 48.1% in the first half, despite making just 2 of 12 three-pointers (16.7%) and tallied 20 of their 28 points in the paint.
After a closely contested first half, Concordia opened the second period with a quick triple and a tip-in for a nine-point advantage. Struggles on defense haunted USF early in the half, as Concordia scored two three-pointers off a pair of offensive rebounds leading to six points off triples.
After being held scoreless in the first half, Ward roared back and scored eight points in a row for the Cougars to make it a 50-42 game with 13:33 on the clock.
The turning point came near the 10-minute mark of the second half, when Kielpinski missed both ends of a double-bonus but grabbed the rebound and the ball was whipped around until it landed in Brown’s paw, who hit a three to cut the Cougar deficit to 55-50 and forced Concordia head coach Kelly Boe to call timeout. Concordia was cited for traveling on the ensuing play and seconds later Brown brought a raucous student section to its feet with a falling down trey that cut the Bears lead to 55-53.
Trailing 64-61, Stotts air-balled a three-pointer but earned immediate redemption when Mack Johnson secured the rebound and passed it to Brown, who kicked it back to Stotts for his game-tying three-ball. Kielpinski missed the back end of two free throws but soared above everyone else on the court for the rebound and laid it in to give USF their first lead of the second half at 68-66 with a little more than three minutes to play. Back-to-back Golden Bear fouls led to four freebies for USF, including the two that Brown hit to join the 1,000 point club and move USF in front 72-68.
Concordia would tie it at 72-all and things looked good for USF when Jones ate up lots of clock before converting his before trade mark dribble drive with 18.6 seconds left. The Golden Bears missed the anticipated last shot, but won the rebound scramble and Cordell Smith found a wide-open Chris Halvorsen who jammed it home to send the game to overtime.
Much like the first forty minutes, the extra session belonged to #11, as Brown netted USF’s first six points on back-to-back threes for an 80-75 lead. Concordia was forced to hack-a-Cougar in the closing minutes and went 15-18 at the stripe (including 6-for-6 from Brown) to seal the USF win.
Smith finished with 25 points to pace a trio of Golden Bears in double-digits.
USF finished 30-for-59 from the floor (50.8%), 11-for-29 (37.9%) from deep and 24-for-34 (70.6%) from the line.
Sioux Falls was edged by Concordia, 37-33 in total rebounds but held a 5-2 advantage in blocks. The teams combined for just 15 turnovers—only six belonging to the Cougars—while USF cashed in nine Concordia miscues for 11 points. USF won the battle of the benches, 28-16.
Derek Brown enters the postseason ranked second all-time in program history with 191 three-pointers and need just three triples to surpass Ryan Coapstick (2001-03, 193) for the right to be known as the top sniper in Cougar history.
USF will travel to St. Cloud State on Wednesday for the opening round of the 2013-14 NSIC/Sanford Health Men's Basketball Tournament. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. at Halenbeck Hall in St. Cloud, Minn.
Courtesy: University of Sioux Falls