USF Men drop heartbreaker to MSU Mankato


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (USF) – In a game that was decided as the final ticks melted from the clock, the University of Sioux Falls Men’s Basketball Team (22-8) dropped a 60-59 decision to Minnesota State in the quarterfinals of the NSIC Sanford Health Tournament on Sunday night at the Sanford Pentagon.

Down 57-50 with 1:30 to play, the Cougar rallied behind baskets from Jack Thompson, Teathloach Pal and five points by Trevon Adams to take a 59-58 lead with 15 seconds to go. However, Cameron Kirksey, who led MSU with 18 points, made a basket (goaltending called on USF) with 5.6 seconds left to give the Mavericks a 60-59 lead. Then, Adams, who had tied his career-high with 16 points, had a good look at the basket but the ball rolled off and the clock expired as USF’s run in the tournament ended.

The Cougars, which had been ranked 10th in the second NCAA DII rankings, will await the verdict on who goes to region but with the loss likely had its season end as the top eight teams are selected to the Central Region. Still, USF had its best season in the NCAA DII era (since 2012-13) and finished with a South Division title (17-5 record), three All-NSIC players (Chase Grinde, Teathloach Pal and Jack Thompson) plus the NSIC Coach of the Year in 12th-year Head Coach Chris Johnson, who is the all-time wins leader at USF with 217.

“This was a hard loss to take,” said Johnson, who team had been picked to finish 10th in the NSIC preseason coaches poll. “We battled all night but couldn’t get some shots to fall. Still, we fought to the bitter end and had a chance to win. I am exceptionally proud of this team for its resilience and refusal to ever say die. They are an outstanding group of men who loved to play together and epitomized team to its highest degree,” he said.

USF, which was tied with MSU 32-32 at the half, was outscored 28-27 in a defensive-controlled second half. USF made just 10-of-37 shots in the second half for 27 percent while MSU was 9-of-21 for 42.9 percent. Overall the Cougars made 35.9 percent on 23-of-64 shooting and 6-of-16 from three-point range for 37.5 percent. MSU was 23-of-44 for 52.3 percent and 5-of-12 from distance. Key for USF was its control of the boards, 39-25, and creating turnovers. USF, which won the rebound battle for the 26th time in 30 games, had a 17-to-4 edge in points from turnovers and had an 11-0 margin in second chance points.

Adams and senior forward Devin Green, who had 17 points, five rebounds and two assists, gave USF a 36-to-9 edge in bench points. Pal, who was name second team All-NSIC, had five points, three steals, a block and a game-high 12 rebounds. It was his 19th career game with double-digit totals in rebounds. Green finished his career with 17 double-digit point games and 439 career points with 239 career rebounds while playing exactly 100 games.

Game Recap –

Early on Grinde and Thompson made baskets as the game was tied at 4-4 with 17 minutes to play. The Cougars used a 7-0 run, including a three from Adams and a two by Green for a 13-8 lead. With a 12-6 run, including a pair of threes from Trevon Adams, the Cougars built an 18-12 lead with 9:06 to play. Then, Green hit two foul shots and Chase Grinde knocked in a three at the 5:50 mark for a 25-15 lead. Green hit double-digits (10 points) with an offensive board and the Cougars had a 29-22 lead with 2:46 to play. MSU closed with two threes and outscored the Cougars, 10-3, to draw even at the half-time break with the score deadlocked at 32.

In the second half, USF had a number of solid looks in close but the ball rolled away. Free throws by Pal (1) and Thompson (2) cut MSU’s lead to 37-35 (15:58). After missing its first 10 shots, Green converted a drive to the hoop and USF trailed, 39-38. Then Green hit a three for a 41-39 lead at the 11:24 mark. But after the game was tied at 43, MSU had five straight with Kevin Krieger’s three giving them the five-point edge.

After MSU took a 51-45 lead, Thompson converted a drive to cut lead to 51-47 with 3:30 to play. With 2:28 to play, Adams knocks in a three to cut lead in half and Cougars draw within 53-50. However, MSU had a basket from Kirksey and then two foul shots from Kelly Kramer (1:30) to take a 57-50 lead.

When all appeared difficult for the Cougars, they proved their resilience, toughness and focus. First evens hit a jumper to cut the deficit to 57-52 with 1:02 left. After MSU’s Corvon Seales made 1-of-2 free throws, Pal converted inside (:40). The Cougars stole the ball and Evans converted a three with 32 seconds on the clock. After Kirksey missed the front end of a one and one, Adams made a driving lay-up with 16 seconds left. On the other end, Kirksey had a look inside and USF was whistled for goaltending, which gave MSU the 60-59 lead. The basket set up the final 5.6 seconds as USF’s hopes for more basketball ended as the ball was not kind and fell off the rim.

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