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Cougar men split final regular-season road trip

 The University of Minnesota, Morris men’s basketball team finished its final regular-season road trip 1-1 with a victory over North Central and a loss to Northwestern.

The Cougars were in fourth place alone in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference and were one game out of second place. Just four games separate the top teams in the UMAC from the seventh ranked team with five games remaining in the schedule.

UM-Morris 86, North Central 70

Against the number-two team in the UMAC, the Cougars picked up a huge 86-70 win over North Central Rams Friday.

Brendon Foss had 21 points and eight rebounds. Tyler Pendleton had 15 coming off the bench and Logan Orazem had 13 points.

UMM shot 7-of-18 from three-point range as they proved why they are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country. 

North Central out shot UMM, but the Cougars made 12 more free throws propelling them to victory.

The bench was key in the victory once again as they outscored the Rams’ reserves 29-14. Balanced scoring has been a big factor all year for UMM.

The Rams jumped out to an 11-3 lead in the opening five minutes of play, but Morris responded with seven straight points thanks to four from Foss bringing the Cougars to within one at 11-10.

North Central opened up the lead once again taking a 12-point lead with 8:09 left in the first half. Once again the Cougars worked their way back into the game scoring eight straight to cut the lead to 29-25 with just over 5:30 left.

Eventually the Cougars tied the game at 36 and took their second lead of the game thanks to back-to-back three pointers from Pendleton. R.J. Dean hit a jumper as time expired in the first half giving Morris the 44-38 lead at halftime.

Orazem gathered up his own miss and put it back to kick off the second half as Morris attempted to pull away taking an eight-point lead early in the half.

The Rams pulled within three at 46-43, but the Cougars went back up by eight minutes later and held a two-possession lead for the remainder of the game.

North Central closed the gap to five at 69-64 with just over five minutes left, but a 5-0 run by Dean gave UMM a 10-point lead a minute later.

UMM hit seven of 10 free throws in the final two minutes to clinch the victory.

Northwestern 70, UM-Morris 67

The Cougars outshot Northwestern Saturday, but fell short 70-67 on the road.

The Eagles got to the foul line 12 more times than UMM, which proved to be the difference. 

Logan Orazem had 15 points to lead the Cougars offensively. Three other Cougars finished the game in double figures. Steve Birman had 13 points, Dean had 12 and Evan Reller had 10. The bench was quiet for the Cougars as they scored just 11 points.

Morris held the advantage in the paint outscoring Northwestern 32-22.

Northwestern got hot in the second half from the field as they shot 42.9 percent from the field and 6-of-10 from three-point range in the half.

Morris stormed out of the gate, taking a 12-4 lead with 15:28 left on the clock. The Eagles closed to within two at 15-13, but UMM responded with a 7-1 run, taking a 22-14 lead with 5:29 left.

Northwestern ended the half on a 6-0 run as they cut the lead to 29-27.

The Eagles took the lead in the opening three minutes of play in the second half and tried to pull away half way through as their lead got as high as eight with 10:59 left.

Trailing 55-48 UMM went on an 8-0 run and took a lead on a Dean layup with 7:13 left. NWC took the lead just over a minute later, but UMM stayed within striking distance. 

Evan Reller hit a layup with 2:09 left to cut the lead to 62-61, but five quick points by the Eagles gave them breathing room with 1:17 left.

Birman hit a three pointer on the Cougars’ next possession and the Cougars forced a missed shot on the next Eagles’ possession, but NWC grabbed their own miss and hit a pair of free throws to seal the win with 15 seconds left.

The Cougars will host Presentation on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m.