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Cougar men split UMAC contests

The University of Minnesota, Morris men's basketball team split a pair of Upper Midwest Athletic Conference games, defeating Crown, but falling to Northwestern.

The Cougars slip to 4-3 in the UMAC and 6-10 overall.

They take the hardwood again this Thursday, playing host to Presentation, with whom they are still tied for second in the UMAC.

UM-Morris 71

Crown College 60

The Cougars shook off a slow start and poor shooting in the first half to defeat Crown College 71-60 Friday night in St. Bonifacius.

Guard Eric Dalbey sparked a second-half run on his way to a game-high 22 points on 5-of-11 shooting, including four three pointers and a perfect eight of eight from the free-throw line.

Coach Tim Grove went with Dalbey, forward Derek Schmidt, guards Clay Fischer and Ryan Denny, and center Mitch Primus as starters. It was the first start of the season for Fischer and Primus and just the second start for Denny.

This five earned the starting nod for their performance last Tuesday against North Central.

"This was the group that got us going in that game. After watching some film, we told them 'you deserve to start.'"

But after the first four minutes of play against Crown, the Purple Storm led 9-2.

"I've tried 10 different starting lineups," Grove laughed after the game. "I can't put my finger on why we start so poorly."

In the first half, a lack of patience in the half court offense led to bad shots and poor shooting. Still, the Cougars led 32-31 at halftime despite making only 26 percent of their field attempts.

The second half surge keyed on a Dalbey three pointer at the 15:41 mark. After an entry pass into forward Phil Allen on the post, the senior turned his head and kicked the ball out to an open Dalbey who drained the shot.

"In the first half we weren't making that pass," Grove said. "That basket [which made it an eight-point lead] really got us going."

The new found patience on offense also paid dividends in the paint where Allen and sophomore Zach Meyer combined for 23 points off the bench. As a team, the Cougars outscored Crown 34-8 inside the key.

UMM ran their lead to 13 by the halfway point and maintained that cushion for the remainder of the game. They would shoot 62 percent from the field in the second half and make four of six three pointers.

"That's the ballgame right there," said Grove.

Ten Cougars played double digit minutes in the contest.

"When you play a Friday night and Saturday afternoon game, it's nice to be able to rest some guys in the first game," Grove said.

Northwestern 71

UM-Morris 62

Cold shooting once again plagued the Cougars, as they fell behind Northwestern in the first half by 15 points. UMM rallied some in the second half but ultimately fell short, 71-62, in St. Paul Saturday.

The game was a match-up between the co-preseason picks in the UMAC. Before tipoff, the Eagles had a one-game lead in the conference with a 5-1 record. The Cougars, meanwhile, were tied for second place with Presentation.

UMM kept pace early as both teams struggled to find open shots. The Fragodt brothers--Joey and Dan--hit back-to-back scores to give the Cougars an 18-17 lead with 9:22 left in the first half.

To close the first half, Northwestern went on a 22-7 run during which the Cougars went nearly seven minutes without a field goal. Sophomore Kyle Bruns' jumper in the lane with 1:36 before intermission made it 36-23 Northwestern.

While the Cougars made 33 percent (10 of 30), the Eagles converted 57 percent of their tries (16-28) including four three pointers to UMM's two.

UMM bolted out in the second half, cutting Northwestern's lead to seven points within the first three minutes. Two buckets from Allen and a three pointer from senior Kendall Proell brought the Cougars to life.

But the Eagles regained their composure and held UMM at bay for four minutes before running their lead to 12 again at the 13:33 mark.

The Cougars mounted another charge. A steal and fast break layup by Dan Fragodt and two more paint baskets from Schmidt and Allen brought UMM within six with 8:22 to go, but they could draw no closer.

Though UMM pulled down more rebounds (34 to 31) and committed fewer turnovers (15 to 16), poor shooting let the Eagles get away. The Cougars made 23-59 shots (39 percent) and only three of 15 three-point attempts.

Allen and Dalbey led UMM with 12 points apiece. Schmidt pulled down eight rebounds. Dan Fragodt recorded four steals