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Cougars suffer 83-78 OT loss in UMAC opener

The University of Minnesota, Morris men's basketball team had the conference season begin on a rough note Tuesday, Jan. 11, falling 83-78 in overtime to Presentation.

Missed shots, both from the floor and at the free-throw line, were the story for the Cougars as they let a one-point halftime lead slip away, and needed a late steal-and-score from Steve Birman to force the extra session.

After the Saints took a 67-65 lead in the final minute, Kyle Bruns missed two free throws that would have tied the game with just 29 seconds to go. After a timeout, the Saints set up under their basket for the inbound, but the long pass was picked off by Birman who promptly dribbled into the lane for the tying score.

After a much more conservative inbound, the Saints brought the ball up the floor looking for the winning basket, but the Cougars' Dan Fragodt came up with the biggest of his six steals on the night, ending the threat. Fragodt quickly passed off to Eric Dalbey whose last-second shot hit off the back of the iron and bounced out, leaving the game tied and heading into overtime.

The Cougars had their chances in the extra session, taking 11 shots to just five for the Saints, but were only able to get four to fall and were outscored 16-11 in the period, suffering the loss.

Despite a 29 percent (10-of-35) shooting performance in the first half, UMM still carried a 34-33 lead into the break, with the credit going to a 13-of-15 performance at the free-throw line for keeping them in the game. However, in the second half they shot just 55 percent (6-of-11) at the line, with a 25 percent (1-of-4) tally in overtime.

Presentation, meanwhile, shot 41 percent (11-of-27) in the first half, but turned the ball over 14 times resulting in 11 UMM points. Forcing the Cougars into nine first-half turnovers, the Saints could only convert the giveaways into five points.

The Cougars opened the second half on a 10-2 run with buckets from four different players, including two of Birman's team-high 16 to cap off the run at the 16:38 mark. The Saints answered with a pair of threes to halt the run, but a lay-in from Bruns put the home team back up nine at the 14:40 mark.

That would be as big as the Cougars' lead would get, however, as the Saints got to within one at 8:28, and pulled even for the first time at 3:42. Still, UMM answered with a three from Birman the next time down the floor.  Presentation then tied it for the second time after two free throws from Channing Coffey at the 2:03 mark.

Coffey led all players with 22 points and 13 rebounds, while playing in all 45 minutes.

After a pair of missed shots by the Cougars, the game went into the final minute where the Saints took their first lead at 67-65 with just 42 seconds left.

Dalbey finished with 15 points with Derek Schmidt adding 13 along with seven rebounds. Fragodt was the final Cougar in double figures with 10, also adding seven boards. Fragodt was a bright spot for the Cougars, finishing with a perfect shooting performance going 3-of-3 from the floor and 4-of-4 at the line.

The Cougars will look for their first conference win this weekend, when they return to Jim Gremmels Court to host Northwestern and Crown.