Sioux Falls Finishes Another Perfect Week With Sweep Of MSU-Moorhead

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Sophomore guard Chase Grinde scored a career-high 29 points and Troy Houghton surpassed his career-high with 17 points as (RV) University of Sioux Falls Men's Basketball Team (19-5, 15-3 NSIC) registered a 79-68 victory over MSU Moorhead (15-9, 11-7 NSIC) in cross divisional play at the Stewart Center on Saturday (Feb. 8).

With their fifth straight victory, the Cougars lead the NSIC by one game over Northern State (18-6, 14-4 NSIC) and have a three-game margin over Upper Iowa (15-9, 12-6 NSIC) in the NSIC South with four games to play. After a home sweep over (RV) NSU (68-61) and MSU Moorhead (79-68), USF will travel to Winona State on Feb. 14 and Upper Iowa on Feb. 15 in search of a 20-win campaign and first-ever NSIC South title.

Grinde, whose previous career-best was 22 against Winona State, on Jan. 26, 2019, had his 22nd career double-digit point game and third 20-point game. He made 12-of-16 shots from the floor, which included 2-of-3 from three-point range. He was 3-of-4 at the foul stripe and added five rebounds, three assists and two steals in his career-best game.

As for Houghton, he surpassed his career-best in back-to-back nights as he had 17 points with a steal and a rebound in 25 minutes. Houghton, who had 16 points and a career-best seven rebounds against NSU last night, was 6-of-8 from the floor and made 1-of-2 from 3-point range as well as 4-of-7 at the foul stripe. Also reaching double digits for USF was junior forward Austin Slater with 12 points. Slater also added three blocks, five rebounds and two assists in USF's second win over MSUM in the past three seasons.

"I thought we guarded pretty well tonight. In the second half we went to our 1-3-1 zone and turned them over five of six possessions," said USF Head Coach Chris Johnson, who now has 230 career wins and 214 at USF. "I also felt we got out on the break and made some plays in transition which proved to be a big difference. Chase Grinde and Troy Houghton really had great games for us. I thought they really sparked us tonight. Also, I thought Milan Surlic gave us good minutes when Jack Thompson was in foul trouble and Jaxon Simon, Devin Green, Will LyBaek came up big off the bench. Every contribution was huge," he said.

Johnson noted that winning back-to-back games against two of the top three teams in the NSIC North was a good measuring stick for his team.

"For us to use a lot of emotional energy against NSU last night and back it up with a strong effort tonight says a lot about these guys," said Johnson, whose team earned its fourth win in 13 games against the Dragons.

USF, which had a 25-to-24 rebound edge, forced MSUM into 18 turnovers, which included seven steals. The Cougars, which had 10 turnovers, added 10 assists and six blocked shots. With the turnover differential, USF had a 21-to-7 margin in points off turnovers. But the biggest factor was USF's continuing dominance in the paint where they had a 52-to-28 advantage.

The Cougars led by as many as seven points (15-8) in the first half and took a 34-31 lead to the break. When they lead at halftime, USF is 15-3. And, by shooting 15-of-26 for 57.7 percent in the second half, the Cougars continued that winning trend by outscoring MSUM, 45-37, after the break to take home the 79-68 victory.

Overall the Cougars hit 29-of-53 field goals for a season-high 54.7 percent. It was the seventh time this season that USF shot over 50 percent and the Cougars have won six of those games. While USF was just 3-of-11 from three-point range, they made 18-of-24 for 75 percent at the charity stripe. USF, which ranked near the bottom of the league in foul shooting, was 35-of-45 for 77.8 percent this weekend, a total which was well above their season average of 69.5 percent.

Another note of significance about USF is its defensive work. The league's best defensive unit, they held NSU to 21 points below their season average of 82.0 on Friday. Tonight, they held MSUM to nine points below their season average of 78.5. MSUM made 20-of-42 shots for 47.6 percent but was just 9-of-20 for 45 percent in the second half. And, the Dragons made just 4-of-12 from three-point range. However, they were able to stay in the game by hitting 24-of-29 for 82.8 percent at the free throw line. Sophomore guard Gavin Baumgartner led the Dragons with 21 points and five rebounds while Johnny Beeninga had 15 points.

Scoring Summary
In a tightly contest first half, USF's biggest lead was seven points at 15-8 midway through in the half. However, MSUM finished with a 26-to-18 run to cut the lead to 34-31 at the break. USF, which hit 14-of-27 field goals for 51.9 percent but missed all five of its threes in the first half, were led by Grinde with nine points while Slater and Teathloach Pal both provided seven points.

The Cougars, which had a 14-to-13 edge on the boards, forced nine turnovers. MSUM, which had 11 points from Baumgartner, also shot well from the field as they connected on 11-of-22 for 50 percent. They were 2-of-7 from three and 7-of-11 at the foul line.

With 6:16 to play in the first half, the Cougars took a 6-5 lead. Then, Grinde and Devin Green scored to give USF a 12-8 lead. In a half most controlled by the defenses, the Cougars took a 15-8 lead with 9:46 to play after a basket by Grinde. MSUM followed that with a 15-8 run of their own as Baumgartner's basket drew the Dragons into a 23-23 tie with five minutes to go. Later, Pal hit a jumper for a 34-29 lead for USF.

Like has been their custom this season, the Cougars took early control in the second half. With 17:35 play, Slater hit a pair of foul shots and a basket inside as the Cougars built a 39-31 lead. With a three from Grinde, the Cougars took a 52-45 lead over MSUM at the 12:14 mark. Then, USF raced to a 61-47 advantage after a 9-2 run, keyed by Houghton's only three of the game.

From there, MSUM tried to cut into the lead but Grinde and Houghton continued to come up with big plays. After the Dragons cut the lead to 66-56 on two foul shots by Baumgartner, Houghton converted in the lane. Again at the 3:55 mark, USF led by 10, when late in the shot clock, Grinde knocked in a three from the left side for a 71-58 lead.

The Dragons were able to cut the lead to 71-62 at the 3:06 mark but Houghton and Grinde converted back-to-back baskets in transition, including a dunk from Houghton. With those baskets, which followed defensive stops, USF led, 79-62, and just 1:40 remained. It was all the margin that the Cougars would need as they matched the win total of a year ago and now have 19 wins or more in three straight seasons under the direction of Head Coach Chris Johnson.

Maria Syzmanski scored a season-high 23 points to lead the No. 13 University of Sioux Falls Women's Basketball Team (22-3, 15-3 NSIC) to a 66-46 win over Minnesota State Moorhead (16-9, 11-7 NSIC) in Northern Sun Conference cross divisional play at the Stewart Center on Saturday (Feb. 8).

With its fourth straight win, the Cougars improved their DII-program best start to 22-3 with an equally top league mark through 18 games of 15-3. With four games to play, the Cougars have clinched at least a tie for the NSIC South Division title. USF, which moved to 6-5 against MSUM all-time, sit second overall in the NSIC and a game behind Minnesota Duluth.

Szymanski, who moved her career point total to 1,094, had her first 20-point game of the season and her 11th as a member of the USF program. With 23 points, she had her 53rd double-digit point game of her career. Szymanski, a senior from Pulaski, Wisc., hit 8-of-10 field goals, which included 3-of-4 from three-point range as she pushed her career total in made threes to 162. Additionally, Szymanski was 4-of-6 at the foul line while grabbing two rebounds with a steal.

USF also had double-digit points from senior Kaely Hummel who had 13 points, three rebounds and two assists. Hummel, who has 88 double-digit scoring games in her career, hit 3-of-5 from three-point range and has 258 triples in her career. Hummel, who now has 1,628 career points (4th all-time at USF), is just one three away from tying USF's all-time leader Laura Johnson, who had 259 from 2010-14.

"I am very happy with the way we played defensively. To hold an outstanding team like MSUM to 46 points is a great effort," said 12th-year USF Head Coach Travis Traphagen, who earned his 239th career win and now has led his sixth team at USF to 22 wins or more. "We put them on the line too much in the first half but we challenged our kids and they responded. We found our rhythm in the second half and I think we rose to the occasion. Offensively, we were really sharp in the final two quarters," said Traphagen, whose team will try to clinch the South Division outright when they face Winona State on Friday (Feb. 14) in Winona, Minn., before facing Upper Iowa on Saturday, Feb. 15.

After trailing 26-24 at halftime, USF outscored MSUM, 21-9, in the third quarter and 21-11 in the fourth quarter for a 42-20 advantage in the second half. The Cougars, which hit 23-of-54 shots for 42.6 percent for the game, made 15-of-25 shots for 60 percent in the final two quarters, which offset some early shooting struggles in the first half.

Despite being outrebounded, 41-29, the Cougars once again put the defensive clamps on an opponent and limited the Dragons to 26.9 percent shooting (14-of-52) while forcing 14 turnovers which resulted in a 7-of-3 edge in points off turnovers. USF had seven steals and three blocks in holding their second straight opponent under 60 points and the third team under 50 this season.

USF, which ranks sixth in DII in assist-turnover radio, had just four turnovers and dished 10 assists on 23 made baskets. The Cougars again had a strong perimeter game by hitting 8-of-16 shots for 50 percent. The Cougars also was 12-of-19 from the foul line. MSUM, which made just 4-of-16 from three-point range, hit 14-of-20 free throws. They were led by Madi Green and Peyton Boom who each scored 10 points.

Scoring Summary
Through the opening two quarters, the Cougars struggled with 27.6 percent shooting as they made just eight of 29 field goals, including misses of several at point blank range. Down 26-24 at the break, USF also hit 4-of-8 from three-point range and only 4-of-8 at the foul line. MSUM, which had a 25-12 rebound edge, made 7-of-22 field goals for 31.8 percent and were 3-of-8 from three but 9-of-10 at the foul line as they rallied to take the halftime lead.

Hummel and Goodhope hit triples as USF took an 11-7 lead with 2:22 to play in the first quarter. After MSUM worked into a tie, Szymanski scored on her first of several drives into the paint on the night. With her basket, USF was able to take a 13-11 lead into the first quarter break.

Early in the second quarter, Szymanski, who led USF with nine points in the first half, hit a jumper for a 15-11 margin (9:30). Later Geer (6:45) made a three for a 20-14 lead over the Dragons. With a free throw from Goodhope, the Cougars took a 24-22 advantage (3:06). However, MSUM outscored USF 4-2 down the stretch of the second quarter to take the 26-24 lead to halftime.

With a basket from Kiara James, the Cougars tied the game at 26 with 8:30 to play in the third quarter. And that early basket opened the gates for USF offensively and provided confidence. Szymanski and Hummel dialed up from deep with triples as USF opened the second half on an 9-0 run and moved into a 33-26 lead over MSUM at the 6:18 mark.

After MSUM closed within 34-31, USF had the answer. First, Szymanski hit a three and then a lay-up as USF took a 41-33 lead. The 11-4 run also include a Szymanski lay-up for a 45-35 lead through three quarters. USF, which hit 7-of-11 field goals and 3-of-5 from deep in the third quarter, outscored, MSUM, 21-9, to take the double-digit lead.

USF's momentum was clear and it continued in the fourth quarter. USF hit 8-of-14 shots for 57.1 percent and added 4-of-5 field goals as they had a 21-11 margin in the fourth quarter to earn a 20-point win over the third place team from the NSIC North. The margin began with another big USF run as the Cougars rattled over a 9-2 advantage with Hummel's three providing USF with a 54-37 lead with 5:51 to play.

USF opened the fourth quarter on a 9-2 run with Hummel's three giving USF a 54-37 lead (5:51), which was USF's largest lead to that point. Two free throws from Hummel and another from Szymanski helped USF to a 63-43 advantage at the 2:46 mark. MSUM simply had no answer and never drew any closer than 17 points (63-46, :46, 4th quarter) the rest of the way.