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Cougar men start year with loss to Valley City

In returning to the court for the first time since closing out the fall semester, the University of Minnesota, Morris men's basketball team suffered an 87-53 loss to visiting Valley City State Wednesday in nonconference action on Jim Gremmels Court.

One of the top teams out of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), the Vikings (14-4) took a 19-point lead into the halftime locker rooms, before outscoring the Cougars by 15 in the second to hand the hosts their most lopsided loss of the season.

Valley City State sweeps the season series after the Cougars used a win at home to split with the Vikings last season.

Poor shooting and turnovers did the Cougars in as they gave it away 27 times, their highest total of the season.

Morris shot well in the first half, hitting at a 52 percent (11-of-21) clip, but it wasn't enough to keep up with the 59 percent (19-of-32) put up by the Vikings. Then in the second, Valley City State stayed just as hot, connecting at a 58 percent (18-of-31) rate, while the Cougars cooled way down to just 23 percent (5-of-22).

The opportunistic Vikings turned the Cougars' miscues into points, scoring 38 off Morris turnovers, while also adding 11 second-chance points off their nine offensive rebounds.

Brendon Foss and Derek Schmidt were the only Cougars to reach double figures, finishing with 10 points each. For Foss, it's the third time with at least 10 points this season, while Schmidt reaches the mark for the sixth straight time, the longest stretch of his career.

The 87 points is the most the Cougars have allowed this season, while the 53 scored is the second lowest of the season.

They won't have long to dwell on it, though, as they hit the road to close out the non-conference season at the University of Sioux Falls tonight at 7 p.m. Also the Cougars, USF is 5-7 on the season, including four wins in their last five games.

Then after a weekend off, it's a full jump into Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC) play, with three league games next week. After a runner-up finish last season, the Cougars were picked to finish third in 2011-12. Morris won the 2010 UMAC Tournament, before finishing second last season.

UMM opens conference action with road games at Presentation on Jan. 20, and at Northwestern and Crown on Jan. 13 and 14, respectively, all teams they split with last season.