Slater scores 20 as USF men bounce back with home win

SIOUX FALLS – Led by 20 points from Austin Slater, the University of Sioux Falls Men's Basketball Team (8-3, 4-1 NSIC) pulled into a tie for the lead in the NSIC South with a 73-67 victory over St. Cloud State (6-5, 3-2 NSIC) on Saturday (Dec. 14) at the Stewart Center.

The Cougars, which led by 16 points (4:28, 1st half), took a 37-31 halftime lead and added 36 second half points to take the win in a North-South division matchup. With the victory, USF improved to 8-3 on the season and moved to 4-1 in the NSIC South. With a loss by Augustana on the road to Bemidji State, the Cougars moved into a first place tie with the Vikings.

"I thought we did a good job defensively and made it tough for them around the rim. Then we made just enough shots to get it done," said USF Head Coach Chris Johnson, who earned his 203rd win at USF. "Different guys contributed tonight. I thought everybody did a really nice job."

Slater hit 6-of-8 field goals, including his only three, and was 7-of-8 from the foul line as he reached 20 points for the second time this season and in his career. He also had two blocks and two rebounds. USF had three players in double-digit points as sophomore guard Chase Grinde filled up the stat sheet. He had 12 points, eight rebounds, five assists and a steal without a turnover in nearly 39 minutes on the floor. Grinde registered his 13th career double-digit point game.

Freshman guard Jack Thompson added 10 points, five assists, two steals and four rebounds in 36 minutes on the floor. In the past five games, he has four double-digits games and totaled 31 points in two games this weekend. In addition, USF had a big effort from both Troy Houghton and Teathloach Pal. Houghton, whose steal in the final 10 seconds sealed the win, had eight points, and three rebounds with a steal. Pal had nine points and a game-high 15 rebounds as he registered his 13th career double-digit rebound game. Senior guard Milan Surlic also had eight points as he hammered home a pair of triples.

The Cougars, which led from start to finish, had another solid effort shooting from the field by making 27-of-59 field goals for 45.8 percent. They were 5-of-18 for 27.8 percent from three-point range and 14-of-22 (63.6 percent) from the foul line but they also had a 36-30 edge on the boards as they have outrebounded 10-of-11 opponents this season. One of the keys for USF was a dominating 44-to-30 edge of points in the paint and they held their own on fast break points (8-to-8) while getting 14 points off the bench.

As for SCSU, they had a game-high 21 points from Trevon Marshall and 11 points from Andrija Blatancic, Anthony Roberts and Illya Tyrtshnik. The Huskies, which had a 15-to-13 edge in points off turnovers, hit 22-of-56 shots for 39.3 percent and had 7-of-17 conversions from 3-point range for 41.2 percent. SCSU, which had 11 turnovers, made 16-of-20 foul shots for 80 percent.

Game Summary –

In the opening half, USF was 17-of-32 from the field for 53.1 percent. Without including the 3-of-10 from distance, USF hit 14-of-22 field goals for 63.6 percent. As a result, was able to build a big first-half lead. After a Slater basket (17:21) and a three from Thompson (15:50), the Cougars had a 12-3 advantage. USF extended the margin to 24-11 with a 12-8 run at the 9:34 mark. Then, with a basket by Slater in the paint, USF had another 11-8 run to take a 35-19 lead with 3:47 to play in the first half.

SCSU closed the half with a 12-2 run to draw within 37-31 when Tyrtyshnik made a three with 33 seconds to play. In that opening half, Slater had 13 points for USF while Marshall had nine for SCSU. The Cougars had a 28-to-14 edge in paint points as they built the lead.

Early in the second half, SCSU cut the lead to 37-34 (19:27) but the Cougars responded with a 7-2 run for a 44-36 advantage when Slater made a pair of foul shots. SCSU continually made runs at the Cougars but were unable to get over the hump and into a tie or take a lead. When Tyryyshnik hit a three to cut the lead to 44-39, Thompson had a basket. Later at the 12:26 mark, Surlic canned a three and Devin Green, who had six points on the night, scored inside for a 56-44 lead with 11:31 to play.

SCSU fought back as a Marshall basket in the paint cut USF's advantage to 58-53 as part of a 9-2 run. Then, the Huskies drew within three at 61-58 (6:07) when Marshall hit a pair of free throws. But, USF found the answer time and again. Thompson made a fast-break layup at the 4:42 mark for a 65-60 advantage. When SCSU crawled again within three (65-62, 2:44, 2nd), Slater made two foul shots.

The Huskies cut the lead to two points (67-65) with 1:45 to play on a three from Anthony Roberts. However, Slater made 1-of-2 free throws for a 68-65 lead (1:26, 2nd) and then Grinde scored inside for a 70-65 advantage (:41, 2nd) After that, SCSU was unable to score until the final seconds at the same time USF was add three free throws as the Cougars took a six-point victory.