Friday, December 10, 2010

#21 Minnesota State 95, Concordia-St. Paul 82

ST. PAUL, Minn. - In a fast-paced and offensive game, Concordia University (4-3, 1-2 NSIC) dropped a 95-82 decision to #21-ranked Minnesota State University, Mankato (7-0, 3-0 NSIC) on Friday night at Gangelhoff Center in front of a season-high 1,200 fans. Concordia was led by a career-high 24-point output from senior guard Courtney Tyler (Eagan, Minn.) in the loss. Junior guard Kenny Olafeso (below right, St. Paul, Minn.) had his second straight double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds (eight offensive).

Concordia was doomed by off the mark three-point shooting (5-23, 21.7%) and poor free throw shooting down the stretch (13-26, 50% for the night) as they had their chances to cut into Minnesota State's consistent second half lead.

The Mavericks opened up a 15-point advantage, 73-58 with eight and a half minutes to play, but Concordia didn't fold. The lead remained in the 11 to 13 point margin for the next five minutes of play but MSU couldn't put the game away.

Trailing 81-70 after a pair of Courtney Tyler free throws with 3:27 to play, the Golden Bears pressed the Mavericks with senior guard Andrew Kuderer (Eden Prairie, Minn.) knocking the ball loose from Jefferson Mason in the backcourt. Kuderer quickly pitched to junior Peter Olafeso (St. Paul, Minn.) for the lay-in to get it back to single digits and giving Concordia new life. He finished with 16 points, four rebounds and three assists.

Mason answered with a pair of free throws at the three minute mark before junior forward Brent Barz (Johnston, Iowa) finished in the paint for CU, keeping the margin at nine (83-74, 2:42). Barz had eight points and six rebounds (four offensive).

Another effective press by Concordia allowed senior Chris Hamblin (left, Eagan, Minn.) to force a steal from Marcus Hill as Hamblin reached over a crowd of Maverick defenders for his second dunk of the night, getting the lead down to seven for the first time since the first minute of the second half. He added six points and six rebounds off the bench along with clutch defense in 25 minutes of action.

Concordia's defense responded as Barz rejected Mason in the lane with Hamblin collecting the carom and MSU's Cameron Hodges fouled Tyler moments later putting him on the foul line.

Tyler converted one of two opportunities, slicing another point off the once strong MSU lead, 83-77 with just over two minutes to play.

MSU finally answered Concordia's press as Hodges finished on a fastbreak layup on a pass from Mason. But Mason fouled Tyler once again, just six seconds after the finish.

Things turned south for the Golden Bears as Tyler missed both free throws and after another defensive stand for CU, they were rejected twice at the rim by Conor O'Brien.

Hill did the rest for MSU, as he hit six consecutive free throw attempts to push the lead back to 14 and out of reach with a minute to play (91-77). He finished with a career-high 28 points and had seven assists. Hill was clutch in the first half, knocking down five of his six three-pointers before the break, most coming from behind the NBA mark on Concordia's floor. He made six of his eight three-point attempts on the night.

As good as Hill was for the Mavs, Tyler was for Concordia. He converted six of his seven shots inside the three-point arc, many of them tough runners in traffic and drawing contact. He got to the foul line 10 times as well, hitting six, and drained two more three-pointers on the night. It was his third 20-plus point performance of the season as he averages 20.0 points per game in three NSIC games.

In the first half, Minnesota State built a 49-42 lead in a very well-played half of basketball by both sides with Hill's three-pointers being the key difference on the scoreboard. MSU shot at a 64.5% (20-31) rate to start the game after the Golden Bears' Isaiah Thomas (Fridley, Minn.) scored the game's first five points. It would be Concordia's only lead although they did force three ties.

CU shot a respectable 45.9% (17-37) from the floor in the opening half and controlled the glass with a 21-13 rebound margin, a surprising total given MSU's hot shooting. But the Golden Bears picked up 12 offensive rebounds in the half to counter MSU's 11-0 edge in points off turnovers in the opening frame.

Concordia's defense got back on track in the second half, holding MSU to 48.1% (13-27) shooting after the break. The teams only combined to commit 22 turnovers, Concordia forcing the balance of those as MSU turned it over 12 times. It's Concordia's first loss of the year when committing 13 turnovers or less, and a big part of that was MSU's ability capitalize on CU's mistakes and limit the damage on their own miscues with a 15-7 edge in points off turnovers.

Junior guard Kenny Olafeso (below, St. Paul, Minn.) registered his second straight double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds while dishing a team-high four assists. He also had the toughest defensive assignment, drawing the 6-foot, 6-inch Mason who scored 17 points and had nine rebounds but also committed five turnovers. K.Olafeso is averaging 17.3 points and 11.3 rebounds in three league games this year.

Hodges ended with 17 points for MSU while O'Brien had 13 points, 13 rebounds and the key pair of blocked shots.

The Golden Bears return to the floor tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. against Southwest Minnesota State.

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