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Cougar men split road games

The University of Minnesota, Morris men's basketball team split a pair of Upper Midwest Athletic Conference road games to Martin Luther and Bethany College.

The Cougars' record moves to 11-11 overall and 8-4 in the UMAC.

This weekend they close out the regular season with a pair of games at home, Friday against Northwestern and Saturday against Crown College.

Martin Luther 76

UM-Morris 70

The Cougar men lost to Martin Luther in New Ulm 76-70 Friday. The Cougars were unable to recover from a torrid first half of shooting for the Knights who made 70 percent of their shots in building a 14-point halftime lead.

However, by game's end, the statistics told a very even tale with neither team having established a significant advantage on the boards nor on turnovers. In the end, after a steady comeback by UMM, it was Martin Luther's steadiness at the free-throw line that preserved the victory.

Early in the first half, the Cougars and Knights went nip and tuck, exchanging baskets. UMM found early success getting points in the paint, particularly sophomore Zach Meyer and Derek Schmidt. With the game tied at 31 at the 6:15 mark, the Knights went on a run, missing only three shots for the remainder of the half, and building at 48-34 halftime margin.

Head coach Paul Grove said it was the stretch that determined the game.

"They just got hot. We tried to do anything we could to get them out of it, but it didn't matter," Grove said. "You just had that sick feeling that every shot they took was going in."

In the second half, the Cougars tried to reclaim some ground, but the Knights were stingy in return. Slowly UMM drew closer, powered again inside by Meyer and Schmidt who continued to have success in the middle. A three-pointer from Eric Dalbey made it 64-59 with 7:44 to play.

The Knights answered, pushing the lead to eight points again, but back-to-back scores from Schmidt made it 67-63 at the 4:21 mark.

At this point, both teams stalled offensively and the Knights managed the only basket over a three-minute stretch. A steal and layup by Schmidt broke the stalemate and closed the Cougars to 69-65 with 1:13 remaining.

With time running out, UMM was forced to foul, but Martin Luther responded, making nine of 12 free throws down the stretch to close the game.

Schmidt had a game high nine rebounds to go with his team-high 18 points points. Meyer finished with 15 points and five rebounds. Kendall Proell dished out six assists.

UM-Morris 99

Bethany Lutheran 80

After trailing by as much as 11 points in the first half, the Cougars were sparked by Dalbey's three-point shooting, and routed the Bethany Lutheran Vikings 99-80 Saturday in Mankato.

Dalbey's game-high 27 points on the night put him at 1,004 points for his career as a Cougar. The milestone bucket came at the 5:17 mark of the second half when the Mora native hit a three-pointer.

"During the game, I had no idea where I was in relation to [1,000 points]. It's nice to get it," Dalbey said.

The Vikings built their early lead on three-point baskets up to 36-25 with six minutes to play in the first half.

Bethany's dribble penetration was also yielding points at the charity stripe as they drew several shooting fouls and scored 15 first-half points on singles.

But the Cougars charged back with Dalbey making three threes in a three-minute span. Another three-pointer from Meyer cut the Vikings' lead to one at 42-41.

From there the Vikings would score the final six points of the half, going into the locker room leading 48-41.

At halftime, Grove said the defensive adjustments were rather obvious.

"We needed to stop their dribble penetration. So we talked about cutting them off at the elbows and forcing them to shoot mid-range jumpers," Grove said. "Once we did that, [Bethany] cooled off."

The Cougars also employed some full-court pressure to force several Bethany turnovers. UMM scored 26 points off turnovers by game's end.

Early in the second half, Bethany increased their lead to 11 points again, at which point the Cougars exploded and never looked back.

Five points from senior Phil Allen and two three-pointers from Proell made it 56-54 Bethany at the 14:43 mark. The Vikings clung to this cushion until midway through the half.

Trailing 65-63 with 9:57 to play, another Proell three-pointer gave UMM its first lead since the opening minutes of the game. Then Dalbey went to work.

On consecutive possessions, he nailed three-pointers, followed by another Allen basket, another Proell three, and finally a third Dalbey three. And suddenly the Cougars led by 10, 77-67.

The Vikings called a timeout to regroup, but UMM retook the floor and continued to bury shots and free throws on their way to a 19-point win.

For the game, the Cougars shot 54 percent from beyond the arc and 52 percent overall. Dalbey and Proell were a combined 12-of-19 on treys. The Cougars outrebounded Bethany 40-35. Allen finished with a 17 and seven night.