SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (USF) – 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.
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.