After a 95-54 loss to a tough Saint John's squad, the Minnesota Morris men's basketball team needed to recoup and refocus for the home opener against Concordia College (Minn.) Thursday, Nov. 15, in Morris.
While it was a battle early, senior Noah Grove took over and the Cougars never looked back.
Leading all scorers with 19 points, Grove and the Cougars halted a late comeback attempt by Concordia to secure the first win of the season 81-80, on Jim Gremmels court in Morris.
The Cougars and Cobbers traded blows back-and-forth before Grove's free throws attempts gave Minnesota Morris the much-needed momentum to build a comfortable seven-point lead with just over three minutes remaining in the half. The Cougars finished the first half with a 10-1 run to extend the lead to 44-36 at the half.
The deciding factor in the game was the play at the charity stripe. Led by Grove's perfect 7-for-7 showing, the Cougars shot 15-for-18 at the stripe while only surrendering three attempts in the first half. In fact, for the game, the Cougars went 30-36 from the line while the Cobbers made only completed on three of their eight visits. For much of the second half, Minnesota Morris maintained a double-digit lead, with the closest Cobbers deficit being eight points.
That was when Concordia started to heat up from beyond the arch.
Connecting on seven shots from three-point land, the Cobbers were able to but the Cougars lead to four (75-71) with just over a minute left to play in the contest. After shooting 4-of-12 from three-point territory in the first half, Concordia connected on 7-of-their-12 attempts in the second half. Leading the Cobbers comeback was Collin Larson and Cal Wright. Larson was 4-for-7 from beyond the arch while Wright went 4-for-6.
However, James Pendleton's five successful attempts from the free-throw line provided the Cougars with a six-point cushion. Pendleton went 5-for-6 at the line and 4-of-7 from the field for 13 points on 32 minutes. A Grove free throw with just four seconds remaining would give Minnesota Morris the deciding blow, despite Wright's three-pointer at the buzzer.
The Cougars (1-1) traveled to Grand Forks, North Dakota Saturday, Nov. 17 to face the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks in an exhibition game and now host Mayville State in a non-conference tilt at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20, in Morris.