Trailing by 16 points with 11:39 to play, the University of Sioux Falls outscored Southwest Minnesota State University 32-14 down the stretch to edge the visiting Mustang 67-65, and mount their largest comeback of the season Tuesday night at the Stewart Center. Bill. Freeman turned in a career-high 13 points off the bench, including three clutch baskets in the final five minutes to lead five USF players in double figures.
At one point, USF recorded four-consecutive 3-point plays, three traditional and a momentum changing Bryan Kielpinski and-one that pulled the Cougars within three points with 6:31 to play.
The final five minutes belonged to Bill Freeman. The Nebraska-Omaha transfer caught fire, going 3-of-3 and 2-of-2 during that period. Everytime he touched the ball it resulted in a highlight play. First he knocked down the game-tying 3-pointer with 4:28 on the clock. He topped that, when he brought down the house with soaring put-back dunk to again tie the game. Then he applied the dagger, the go ahead 3-pointer with 28 ticks left, giving the Cougars their first lead, 63-61, since the 9:00 mark of the first half.
USF made a couple of key stops and went 4-of-6 from the line to snap a seven-game losing streak against SMSU. The Cougars move 7-7 overall, 3-7 in conference play, while the Mustangs drop to 8-9, and 5-5 against NSIC opponents.
The first half was also a game of runs. USF jumped out to a 5-0 lead, but hot shooting from behind the arc pulled SMSU back in it, as the two teams remained within two points of each other through the first eleven minutes of game.
SMSU claimed their first lead, 19-17, near the 8:00 mark and would only build on it to close out the half. The Mustangs headed into the locker room with a 32-25 advantage at the break.
Freeman was not the only player to have a huge second half. Vinard Birch of SMSU couldn’t be stopped in the last frame. He put the Mustangs on his back, and poured in 11 timely-points in the final period as well.
For the Cougars, both A.J. Holland and James Rader played big during the comeback. They each chipped in eight second half points. Holland would finish the night with 11 points and four rebounds, while Rader posted 10 points and seven boards.
Keaton Moffitt and Bryan Kielpinski did most of their damage in the opening period, where they combined to total 16 first half points. Moffitt finished with 11 points, and Kielpinski added 13 points, making it his third-straight game with 10-plus.
The Cougars, who shot it 45% from the floor tonight, charted another exceptional night from 3-point range, where they converted nine of their 20 attempts.
USF will look to build on their big win Friday when they travel to Minnesota State-Moorhead. The Cougars then visit in-state rival Northern State Saturday, Jan. 19.