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Tale of two halves ends badly for Cougar women

Despite a lead at the half, the University of Minnesota, Morris women's basketball team came up short Wednesday, falling 63-49 to visiting Valley City State in the Cougars' first action of the new year.

It was a tale of two halves for Morris who led 24-19 at the break, but were outscored 44-25 in the second half on their way to the lopsided final. The Cougars overcame a slow start that saw Valley City State open up a 7-0 lead over the first five-plus minutes.

After nearly three weeks without a game, the Cougars finally got on the board with a pair of Karlee Erickson free throws at the 14:44 mark. From there they went on to shoot 56 percent (10-of-18) in the first half while holding the Vikings to a mere 24 percent (8-of-33). At the 5:23 mark the Cougars took their first lead, before closing the half on a 6-0 run to take a five-point lead into the locker room.

The tables then turned a complete 180 degrees after the break with the Vikings shooting 50 percent (17-of-34) while holding the Cougars to just 27 percent (9-of-34) from the floor. Also in the second, Valley City State out-rebounded the Cougars 27-19 while also forcing seven UMM turnovers in the period. For the game, Morris finished with 20 turnovers, the fifth time this season they've had 20 or more.

The second half played out rather similar to the two team's first meeting this season, where a surge by the then-host Vikings resulted in a 71-63 win. The Cougars may not have led in the game, but were within a score before the Vikings put it away.

The Cougars saw their lead erased when the score was tied 29-29 at the 15:48 mark of the second. Valley City State then took the lead on a three-pointer a minute later and never looked back.

Kenrda Wycoff was the only Cougar to finish in double figures with a team high 13, while Emily Auch finished second with a career-high eight points. Emily Mehr finished with six points, missing double figures for just the second time all season, ending a season-long streak of four straight in double-digits, tying the second longest mark in her career.

With back-to-back losses, the Cougars will now look to right the ship in Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC) play, when they jump in with three games next week. The conference opener is on Tuesday, Jan. 10 at Presentation, before heading to Northwestern and Crown on Jan. 13 and 14 respectively.

With the opening of UMAC action, the Cougars will put their 27-game conference winning streak on the line. After back-to-back UMAC Championships, including a perfect 14-0 season last year, the Cougars are eager to begin the defense of their title.