The University of Minnesota Morris men’s basketball team kept things close in the first half facing Division II foe Southwest Minnesota State University on Monday night, but the Mustangs found their groove in the second half and pulled away from the Cougars for an 83-60 win. UMN Morris falls to 3-5 on the season.
Southwest Minnesota State opened the scoring a minute into the contest and never trailed, however Minnesota Morris kept things close throughout the entire first half and a good portion of the second. Will McBee put the Cougars on the board three minutes in to slice the deficit to 4-2 and Minnesota Morris twice pulled within a point; first on a three-pointer from Corbyn Alexander and later on a pair of free throws from Ian Carlin.
Minnesota Morris was a perfect 6-of-6 at the line in the first half and the Cougars needed those points to keep things close. The last UMN Morris field goal of the half came from McBee with four minutes to go, but defense kept the Cougars close and a pair at the stripe from Pal Dak helped Minnesota Morris to go into the break trailing by only six, 35-29.
Early on in the second half, a pair of Dillon Haider three-pointers cut the Southwest Minnesota State lead first down to five and later down to just four points, 41-37. After the Mustangs briefly went up by 10, Haider canned another triple and consecutive layups from Tath Dak and Pal Dak got the Cougars within three, 53-50, with just over 10 minutes to play.
That was as close as things would get for Minnesota Morris. SMSU responded to the challenge with a 14-0 run in less than three minutes of game action to build a 17-point lead. Though the Cougars would answer back with an 8-2 run capped by a Pal Dak three-point play to make it 69-58, the Mustangs clamped down in the final minutes and pulled away.
Haider and Kannegiesser led the way for Minnesota Morris with 12 points apiece. Pal Dak had nine points and tacked on a team-best eight rebounds.
The Cougars will make their second trip in as many weeks to Bemidji on Thursday night for a third and final matchup with Oak Hills Christian College. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m.