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Cougar men win back-to-back UMAC games

The University of Minnesota, Morris men's basketball team have now won back-to-back games defeating Northwestern and Crown in Upper Midwest Athletic Conference action.

The Cougars are tied with Northwestern and St. Scholastica for second in the league with a 2-1 UMAC record. Only Bethany Lutheran remains unbeaten at 3-0. Overall the Cougars are 5-8.

UM-Morris 88

Northwestern 74

The Cougars used 60-percent shooting from the floor to record a key 88-74 UMAC win over Northwestern Friday.

After their worst shooting performance of the season in their last outing, an overtime loss to Presentation, the Cougars found their stroke and posted their best night of the season. UMM shot an identical 18-of-29 (62 percent) from the field in each half, and finished the game shooting better than 60 percent for the first time all season.

An early three from Eric Dalbey showed a sign of things to come for the Cougars, but early on, the Eagles were equally as hot, and held the lead for much of the game's first 10 minutes. Despite the solid shooting from UMM, Northwestern led by as many as seven at 20-13 with 12:42 still to play in the first half.

However, from there the Cougars scored on four of their next five trips down the floor, capped by a breakaway jam by freshman Brendon Foss, where he had to go up reversed to keep the trailing defender off his hip. The only two points of the night for Foss, he brought the Cougars within one at 23-22 with 9:53 left in the first half.

After trading possessions, the Cougars' Steve Birman hit back-to-back threes to put his squad up by five. The Cougars would never trail again, going up by as much as 16 in the second half.

Birman finished with a game-high 19 points, on 7-of-11 shooting, including a 2-of-3 mark from behind the arc.

Not far behind him were Derek Schmidt and Daniel Fragodt who each knocked down 16. Schmidt also had a 7-of-11 mark from the field, with much of his scoring coming from underneath the basket, leading UMM to a 46-28 edge in points in the paint. Schmidt also pulled down a game-high six rebounds, leading a Cougar effort that controlled the boards 30-24 over the Eagles.

Fragodt - for the second straight game - finished with a perfect shooting mark from the floor, a 7-of-7 tally on his way to 16. The senior also dished out a game-high six assists, leading the team to a season-high 23.

UM-Morris 83

Crown 78

Down five at the break - and tied with less than four minutes to go - the Cougars put a late run together to defeat visiting Crown 83-78 Saturday on Jim Gremmels Court.

The Cougars took their first lead since the opening minute of play just 2:20 into the second half on a Fragodt steal-and-score, and led 44-43 at the 17:40 mark. The scoring play was part of a 9-0 run to open the half, capped by a Birman three at 17:09 that put UMM up 47-43. Birman hit four threes in the game on his way to a game-high 23 points.

The long ball was the Achilles heel of the Cougars in the first half, as they allowed eight in the period, including four to the Storm's RJ Walker, who carried his team with four in the half. The Cougars turned up the D in the second, including shutting down Walker before he eventually fouled out late in the game.

After taking the lead, UMM led for the majority of the second half, but a resilient Crown squad fought back to tie the game at 70-all with just 3:53 to go. However, as they did to open the period, the Cougars strung together a shutout run, this time outscoring the Storm 7-0 capped by a Dalbey three as the shot clock waned.

Down the stretch the Cougars forced four missed shots while Dalbey and Birman combined to go 6-of-6 at the free-throw line to seal the win.

Dalbey finished with 19 point, his third straight game in double figures and best mark of the season since returning from injury just six games ago. Fragodt added 12 with a season-high eight boards and Schmidt bettered all players with a season-high 10 rebounds.

The Cougars out rebounded the Storm 34-23 with their best margin since the season opener. UMM pulled down 14 rebounds on the offensive end, and turned them into 14 second-chance points.

The Cougars held a slight edge in shooting over the Storm, making 50 percent (28-of-56) of their field goals compared to 47 percent (27-of-57) for the Storm, but it was turnovers that made the difference. Despite each team giving it away 16 times, it was the Cougars who were able to capitalize, turning the Storm miscues into 23 points, while Crown was only able to score nine.

The Cougars and Vikings square off next, taking the court in Mankato on Jan. 21. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m