Sunday, December 12, 2010

Concordia-St. Paul 67, Southwest Minnesota State 66

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Senior guard Courtney Tyler (Eagan, Minn.) displayed senior leadership on Sunday afternoon, knocking down the game winning free throws in a 67-66 victory over Southwest Minnesota State (5-3, 2-2 NSIC) at Gangelhoff Center. Tyler missed a layup with 21 seconds to play and Concordia (5-3, 2-2 NSIC) trailing by a point, but fought for his own rebound and was fouled in the lane with 18 seconds to play and the Golden Bear defense held on in the game's final possession for the win.

Leading by a point, SMSU ran a set for sophomore sharp shooter Jordan Miller, who's game-winning look at a three-pointer fell short with Concordia junior Kenny Olafeso (St. Paul, Minn.) fighting for the rebound.

Miller made two of his seven three's in the game as SMSU's leading scorer was bottled up to just 11 points on 4-11 shooting from the floor.

It was a game in which no team led by more than eight points and had 10 lead changes and two ties throughout. Concordia got the upper hand early, as sophomore Isaiah Thomas (Fridley, Minn.) came out with a hot hand for the second straight contest. Thomas, who scored the game's first five points on Friday against 21st-ranked Minnesota State, had four of Concordia's first six points as they came out to a 6-2 lead in the first three minutes. Thomas finished the night with his first career double-double, scoring 14 points with a career-high 10 rebounds including a key steal and blocked shot on the defensive side.

Although SMSU's Nick Smith answered with a jumper on the next possession, the teams played scoreless basketball for nearly the next two minutes until senior guard Andrew Kuderer (Eden Prairie, Minn.) delivered a three-pointer to give CU a five point edge (9-4) in the first five-plus minutes.

Again, SMSU answered on their next possession, a Matt Zager layup with 14:21 to play. Junior guard Peter Olafeso (St. Paul, Minn.) responded by grabbing an offensive rebounder from Kuderer's missed jumper, putting it back up for a layup and a three-point play for CU's largest lead, 12-6, just six minutes into play. He finished with a game-high 19 points, adding five rebounds and five assists and made all seven of his free throws.

Tyler made all three of his free throws as well, while the rest of the Golden Bears went a collective two for nine at the line for a 63.2% (12-19) team total.

Two minutes later, and still leading 14-9, the Mustangs made their first run by scoring 12 unanswered points by five different players including three-pointers by Miller and key reserve Trent Carlson. Carlson's three came with 7:18 to play in the half as SMSU mounted a 21-14 advantage.

The Golden Bears broke their scoreless streak at 6:43 with a fastbreak layup by K.Olafeso on a pass from freshman Coy Smith (Mequon, Wis.). Smith made his basketball debut after serving his redshirt season on the football team as a wide receiver.

While Smith's debut didn't last long, he clocked just two minutes officially and didn't take a shot or register any other measurable statistic in his stint, his energy, combined with the regular season career debut of redshirt freshman post Taylor Steinbauer(Owatonna, Minn.) helped get the Concordia starters back on track. Steinbauer also saw two minutes of action down low, not recording an official statistic in his career debut.

The basket stopped a five minute, 22 second scoreless drought but more importantly started a string of six straight points for the home team, with P.Olafeso scoring the next four points after his brother's layup.

With the SMSU lead down to one, the teams traded buckets for a few possessions until SMSU, leading 27-26 with just over three and a half minutes to play, scored seven straight to reach their largest lead of the game, 34-26, just over a minute later.

But junior forward Brent Barz (Johnston, Iowa) cleaned up his own miss down low for a bucket and Thomas canned a three-pointer with a minute to play in the half as Concordia scored the final five points before the break.

In the second half, SMSU came out and pushed their lead back up to eight points on two different occasions, seemingly in the driver's seat with a 43-35 lead with 16:33 remaining.

P.Olafeso had other ideas as he single-handedly went on a 6-0 run, with Barz adding a tip-in on his own miss and Kuderer knocking down his second three of the game at 12:30 to give Concordia their first lead since the 10:26 mark of the first half (14-13) to close out an 11-2 run  over a four minute span.

Barz finished a rebound shy of a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds while Kuderer had eight points off the bench in 21 minutes of play.

The lead changed hands three times over the next minute and a half when SMSU added another mini-spurt, going from down a point (49-48) to up by seven (56-49)  with two layups by Scott Roehl and a jumper by Vinard Birch along with a pair of free throws. Roehl had a double-double to lead SMSU with 15 points and 13 rebounds.

Down seven points with under seven minutes to play, the Golden Bears were struggling offensively to find a groove.

Until Tyler's senior leadership came through. He hit a fastbreak layup on a pass from P.Olafeso and added the free throw for the three-point play. He'd hit another three-pointer at 3:11 to give Concordia a two-point lead, 63-61 as he scored eight of his 10 points in the game's final seven minutes.

When Concordia reclaimed the lead on Tyler's three, the lead changed hands four more times, with Tyler's free throws at 18 seconds sealing the contest.

The game was relatively turnover-free, with the teams combining for 22 turnovers (SMSU: 10; CU: 12) but Concordia capitalized in the second half, with a 10-2 margin in points off turnovers as they forced seven SMSU miscues in the second half.

And although they were out-rebounded 42-35, they were not out-muscled as CU held a 38-32 edge in the paint and a 17-14 edge in second chance scoring despite SMSU's 15-11 lead in offensive rebounds. Concordia also utilized the break, with 16-4 scoring in fastbreak points.

The Golden Bears also held SMSU without a made field goal in the final 2:35 of play, playing tough defense when it counted most to grind out the victory.

Concordia returns to the floor on Saturday, December 18 for their last contest of the 2010 calendar year at St. Cloud State's Halenbeck Hall. They play a road series on January 1st and 2nd before returning home to Gangelhoff Center on January 7th and 8th.

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