The Cougars’ journey through the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference ended in familiar fashion at St. Cloud State on Saturday: Another tough loss on the road.
USF’s (6-8, 3-7 NSIC) struggles outside the Stewart Center continued in an 85-73 loss to the Huskies in front of an announced crowd of 1,501 in Halenbeck Hall. The Cougars — who led 10-2 early— shot 47.1 percent (51.9 percent in the second half) — but fell to 0-6 on the road thanks in large part to an alarming inability to take care of the basketball.
The Cougars’ 16 turnovers led to 23 points for St. Cloud State (11-3, 7-3), which improved to 8-0 at home and led the majority of the game despite shooting just 39.3 percent in the contest.
The Huskies, who entered the weekend ranked no. 1 in both the NSIC and NCAA leader in turnovers per game (8.6), coughed up the ball just seven times for four Cougar points.
Junior Charles Ward finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds for the first double-double of the season for the Cougars. Derek Brown also scored 15 and Minnesota native Mack Johnson added 11. Bryan Kielpinski scored nine for USF, including a career-best 7-for-7 on free throws. Preston Rayburn had 8 and finished perfect from the field against the Huskies (3-for-3 FG).
The Cougars raced in front 10-2 with a Jordan Stotts triple before surrendering an 11-2 run that put the Huskies ahead 13-12 at the 13:47 mark. The sides exchanged points before a Brown jumper combined with four Mack Johnson points gave the Cougars a 20-16 advantage at the halfway point of the first half. The margin was five for USF at 23-18 with a Rayburn three but SCSU came all the way back to knot the score at 26 and later capped a 21-10 run with free throws for a 39-33 halftime lead.
USF never led in the second half.
Down 61-53 with less than nine minutes to play, USF netted five straight points to pull within three but its lack of transition defense allowed SCSU to match with a 5-0 run. The Huskies led by as many as 14 down the stretch and went 4-for-4 from the field in the final two minutes to put the game out of reach.
Jordan Poydras had 18 points to lead a quintet of Huskies in double-digits.
The Cougars held a 30-27 advantage in bench points and outrebounded the Huskies, 36-32.
USF will host Upper Iowa and Winona State next weekend.
Courtesy: Stephanie Pendrys, USF