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Cougar men have 2-1 start on the road

The University of Minnesota, Morris men's basketball team goes 2-1 as the Cougars open up the 2010-11 season on the road.

UM-Morris 94

North Central 80

The Cougars began play with a 94-80 win on the road Nov. 16 over North Central.

The Cougars got 28 points off turnovers and had another 25 second-chance points.

In just his first game as a Cougar, Steve Birman scored a game-high 28 to lead the way in the win, hitting 4-of-5 from behind the arc on his way to an 11-of-19 night.

As a team UMM connected for a 55.2 percent (37-67) clip from the floor, while limiting North Central to just 45.2 percent (28-62). The Cougars sprinted out to a 57-28 lead at halftime, holding the Rams to just 9-32 (28 percent) in the first half.

A three-pointer by North Central just over a minute into the game gave the Rams their only lead, but just 15 seconds later a three by Birman gave the Cougars back a lead they would never relinquish. Leading 6-5 after the Birman trey, the Cougars went on a run to make it 26-7, capped by a Birman lay-in with 13 minutes left in the first half.

Joining him in double figures was Kyle Bruns of Brandon with 17 and Ben Lindberg with 11. Derek Schmidt had a game-high eight rebounds as the Cougars held a 43-26 advantage over the Rams in the category.

The Cougars stretched their lead to as much as 34 in the first half, before settling back in the second. All 15 players saw the floor in the game with 11 scoring at least once. In addition to Birman and Lindberg, Tom Barrett, Brodie Raymond, Brendon Foss of Hancock, and Evan Reller of Melrose all scored their first points as Cougars.

UM-Morris 65

Concordia 63

The Cougars overcame an early 11-point deficit on Nov. 18 to win 65-63 on the road over Concordia.

A steal and dunk by the Cobbers' Ebo Nana-Kweson gave the hosts an 18-7 lead at the 11:18 mark of the first half, capping a 9-0 run and putting Concordia comfortably in the driver's seat early. With the Cobbers holding the momentum, the Cougars answered by going right back down the floor and halting the streak with a jumper from Zach Meyer.

Meyer hit the first of 11 straight for the Cougars, who strung together a run of their own to tie things up at 18-18 at the 7:34 mark of the opening half. The basket was two of 12 for Meyer, who finished as one of two Cougars in double figures.

The run was capped by Steve Birman who followed up his 25-point season opener with 22 at Moorhead. Despite evening the score the Cougars were unable to gain the lead in the first half and went into the break trailing by four at 36-32.

It took until the 8:44 mark in the second half to get the score tied up again, and until the 7:40 mark after a three by Birman to regain the lead at 57-54. In the meantime, the Cougars kept the score close, staying within striking distance of the Cobbers, but just unable to get over the hump. A steal and score by Derek Schmidt first tied it up, before the Birman three a minute later for the lead.

The Cougars had a lead they would not relinquish, and led by at least two the rest of the way. For every Cobber score, UMM had an answer as they moved to 2-0 on the young season. Concordia falls to 0-1 as the Cougars spoiled their season opener.

UMM outscored the Cobbers 33-27 in the second half, including 19-11 over the last 9:35. They held Concordia to just a 35 percent (20-57) shooting mark from the floor while holding a 38-31 edge on the boards. With eight rebounds by himself, Meyer led the way for the Cougars, with Ben Lindberg chipping in seven.

The Cougars shot 59 percent (27-46) from the floor on the night, but were paced by a 68 percent (15-22) clip in the second half as they mounted their comeback. Birman led the way in the second, with 16 of his 22 points.

Southwest State 87

UM-Morris 65

The Cougars fell short Saturday, falling 87-65 at Southwest Minnesota.

The Cougars and the Mustangs started the game going back and forth with UMM taking the lead early at 12-8 with 16:01 left in the first half. From there, however, the Mustangs began an 18-6 run that lasted over 11 minutes, and gave them a lead they would never relinquish.

Southwest Minnesota held on to a lead near 10 for the majority of the rest of the first half, except for a spell where Clay Fischer scored five straight to cut the lead to five with just 2:30 to go. The Mustangs answered with six straight on their way to a 38-28 lead going into the locker room.

The first half stats were nearly even with UMM shooting 12-37 (32.4 percent), compared to a 14-29 (48.3 percent) mark from SMSU. The Mustangs were able to capitalize at the free-throw line as they went 10-of-10, while the Cougars struggled even getting to the line and finished 0-of-2 in the first half.

Going into the break Birman and Fischer both had eight points, while Daniel Fragodt led the team in rebounds at the break with five.

In the second half the Cougars began to find their stride and brought the game within four points at 46-42 with 14:46 left to play. Down the stretch, though, the shots fell for SMSU, and after the Cougars got the score within four, the Mustangs went on a 19-7 run to all but put the game away.

With 4:41 left in the game, the Cougars brought the score within nine, but the high powered Mustang offense was just too much for UMM. In the end the Mustangs overpowered the Cougars en route to the 22-point margin at 87-65.

Birman finished with 19 points to lead the Cougars, while Schmidt and Fischer also finished in double figures with 12 points each.