After a tough conference lost to Bethany Lutheran snapped a two-game conference win streak, the University of Minnesota Morris men’s basketball team bounced back against North Central University Saturday, Jan. 5, in Minneapolis.
Shooting 14-of-28 from three point range, to include connecting on a four straight in the second half to build a 13-point lead, Minnesota Morris topped the century mark for the first time this season in the 100-85 win over the Rams.
The Cougars started the contest with a 5-2 run that expanded to a 12-6 lead just minutes into the contest. However, the Rams were not to bow out early. By the 14:36-mark of the first half, the Cougars saw not only a six-point lead fade, but saw themselves trailing 17-15. That Rams lead would only grow due to smothering defense and hot shooting.
Trailing 25-18, Kenneth Riley nailed a three-point attempt to cut the lead to 25-21 just moments before Noah Grove would score five straight points to make it a one-point game, 27-26, with just over nine minutes remaining in the half. The senior from Morris was the spark plug for the Cougars in the first half, consistently hitting the clutch shot to pull the Cougars back within a single possession. Just minutes later, Grove would hit another three-point attempt to again bring the game back within one possession.
The offense for the Rams seemed to just be too much for UMM as they would again start to widen the gap. In fact, the Rams would finish the first half shooting 25-for-35 from the floor, to include going 8-for-11 from three point range. Despite best efforts from Grove and Trey Heinsius to keep the game within reach - each player scoring 11 points in the half - North Central finished the half with a 23-10 run.
It was a similar story in the second half for the Cougars. They would remain strongly in the thick of the contest, but just were not able to regain the lead.
That is until Trent Jerome entered the contest.
The sophomore guard drove the lane to connect on a floater and would go to the charity stripe to convert on the three-point play to cut the lead to 69-63. The Cougars defense started to sink in and slowly dwindle the Rams' lead. Then, with the game at the single possession at 71-70 with 9:05 to play, Jeremy Halverson connects on a shot from long range to give the Cougars the lead at the 8:11-mark of the second half. It would be the Cougars' second lead of the game.
It would also be the final time they would have to fight back into the game.
Four straight three point attempts from Halverson, Grove, Nick Peterson and Jeffrey Halverson would give Minnesota Morris the commanding 84-71 lead with just 6:19 left in the contest. For the remaining six minutes of action, the Cougars smallest lead was seven points.
After only a pair of Cougars reached double figures in the first half, four Cougars would finish the contest in double figures. Grove had a team-high 21 points. Heinsuis finished with 19 points after scoring 11 in the first half while Peterson finished with 10 off the bench. Jeffrey Halverson added nine points, but grabbed 10 rebounds while his brother Jeremy scored 20 points after going 4-of-6 from three point range.
The Cougars (5-8, 3-2 UMAC) will be back in action against Martin Luther at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 9, in Morris.