Sioux Falls played like a team with nothing to lose Wednesday night at Wachs Arena in Aberdeen, S.D.
The seven seed from the NSIC South— the Cougars did all they could to pull off the upset against Northern State, the two seed from the NSIC North.
But the visitors came up just short when Robert Goffney’s three-point attempt at the buzzer was left wanting, and USF’s season ended with a 63-60 loss to the Wolves.
The Cougars are 20-54 all-time against Northern State. USF ends the season with an overall record of 12-15 (8-15, NSIC).
Robert Goffney scored the Cougars’ first five points in the game and had 14 in the first half alone. He finished with a career-high 23 points on 6-for-13 shooting, including 11-12 from the free throw line.
Senior David Maxwell chipped in 14 points and four rebounds. He finished his Cougar career with 989 points and 522 rebounds. Classmate James Rader had four points and six rebounds. Senior A.J. Holland, who was in foul trouble from nearly the opening tip, was limited to two points in his final collegiate game.
It was an intense game all-around, but the referees appeared to believe the teams perhaps took that effort too far—43 combined personal fouls, 27 of which were charged to the visiting Cougars. In addition, USF head coach Chris Johnson and NSU player Collin Pryor were each given a technical foul and the Wolves bench had been issued a warning.
Northern State led 4-2 at the 18:16 mark but USF used a 9-1 run that was capped by David Maxwell’s three-pointer to put the Cougars up 11-5 with 14:18 to play.
USF didn’t trail for the rest of the first half.
The Cougars forced six turnovers in the opening period and held the Wolves to just 16.7 percent (1-6) shooting from beyond the arc.
On the strength of going 7-for-7 from the free throw line (vs. 9-for-16 for the Wolves), USF held a 33-30 advantage at the half.
A different NSU team took the floor after the break, as the Wolves opened the second half with an 8-0 run to lead 38-33 with 16:37 to play. USF missed its first seven shots from the floor before a Maxwell hit two paint buckets in a row to end the Cougars’ nearly four minute scoring drought.
With 14:31 left to play, Goffney hit a layup and Rader followed with a drop step on the right side to give the Cougars the 41-38 advantage. The Cougars led 46-42 after Goffney’s traditional three-point play with 9:37 remaining but the Wolves followed with a 7-2 spurt to go in front for good, 48-47.
Northern State took its advantage to seven points at 55-48, but USF continued to battle and closed the gap to a single point with 1:18 left on the clock after Goffney hit two a pair at the line.
The Wolves matched on the other end and after Goffney missed the front end of a one-and-one with :37 left, they made one of two free throws to extend the margin to 62-58.
Holland tipped in a Derek Brown miss and the Wolves again went 1-for-2 from the line to lead 63-60 with nine seconds left. The Cougars had the ball in the right player’s hands with a chance to tie, but Goffney’s three-point attempt fell short.
The Cougars finished 38.2 percent (21-for-55) from the floor and 19 percent (4-for-21) from beyond the arc. USF made 14 of 15 free throws attempts and edged the Wolves 37-31 on the glass.
USF committed 15 turnovers that the Wolves converted into 15 points. NSU shot 42.9 percent from the field, 2-for 11 from long range and 19-for-32 from the stripe.
Courtesy: Steph Pendrys, USF