USF takes control of NSIC as Augustana suffers first home loss

SIOUX FALLS – Freshman guard Jack Thompson scored 20 points with a career-best five three-pointers to lead the University of Sioux Falls Men's Basketball Team (11-3, 7-1 NSIC) into first place in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference with a 65-59 win over city rival Augustana (11-3, 6-2 NSIC) before 2,371 in attendance at the Sanford Pentagon.

USF picked up its fourth straight win and now has defeated Augustana in four of the last five matchups. As a result, USF and Augustana are tied at 37-37 in the all-time series, which dates to 1922. At 7-1, USF is not only at the top of the NSIC South but also lead the overall NSIC standings.

USF Head Coach Chris Johnson, who now has 205 career wins at USF, was pleased with his team's performance this weekend, which included wins in tough road venues at Wayne State and Augustana.

"This was a win decided on work ethic," said Johnson, whose team will host Minnesota State on Friday (Jan. 10) and Concordia St. Paul on Saturday (Jan. 11) at the Stewart Center. "Everyone out there fought for every loose ball and just worked hard. This was a big win for this group, which continues to show improvement game-by-game. I was really happy to see Jack Thompson have a big night in his first-ever game against a rival. But beyond that, I just saw guys playing with passion and energy," he said.

In 39 minutes on the floor, Thompson hit 7-of-10 shots from the field. Among those field goals was 5-of-7 from three-point range as he had a career-high for total threes in a game. The 20 points by Thompson was his second of the season and his six double-digit scoring game of his young career at USF. Also for USF, junior forward Austin Slater had 10 points, eight rebounds, and two assists. Junior guard Trevon Adams had double-digits for a second straight night with 10 points. Adams hit 2-of-8 from three-point range, added three rebounds and had an assist. Junior forward Teathloach Pal had eight points and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds while tying a career-best with four blocks (Central Missouri, 11-19-19; Winona State, 1-26-19).

The Cougars, which moved to 8-1 when leading at halftime, took a 34-31 lead at the break after establishing as much as a 10-point lead in the opening 20 minutes. In the second half, USF outscored Augustana, 31-28, to earn the win.

Key to USF's success was its work on the boards and on defense Against the top rebounding unit in the league, USF won the board battle, 40-36, and had 31 important defensive boards. On 24 baskets, USF had 11 assists and had seven steals and five blocks. The Cougars held the Vikings to 31.7 percent (20-of-63) shooting from the floor and 6-of-21 (28.6 percent) from three-point range and a season low 58 points. In fact, USF held Augie to its lowest point total in the rivalry series since Feb. 15, 2013 when the Cougars took a 70-58 win at the Stewart Center. And, it was the least amount of points at home by the Vikings in a series matchup since Dec. 8, 2012 when USF took a 70-58 win at the Elmen Center.

On the night, USF held a 28-26 advantage with points in the paint and had a 10-to-4 edge in points off turnovers despite committing five more than the Vikings (16-to-11).

Game Recap -
In the opening half, USF took a 34-31 lead at the break by hitting 14-of-29 field goals for 48.3 percent. In that total, they were 4-of-11 from three-point range. Meanwhile Augustana hit 10-of-28 field goals for 35.7 percent and made just 2-of-8 from three-point range.

Thompson, who had 11 first-half points, started fast with a jumper and a three-pointer to give USF an 11-5 lead with 16:01 to play. After a dunk from Slater, USF took a 14-6 advantage which they later extended to 19-11 at the 10:06 mark.

With a 6-1 run, the Vikings cut USF's advantage to 20-17 with seven minutes to play when Eric Tiedeman had a just in the paint. However, Thompson answered with a three for a 23-17 margin. After a three from Evans provided USF with a 30-20 lead (4:06, 1st half), the Vikings had a 11-2 run to draw within 32-31 with a minute to play. With 19 seconds left in the half, senior Devin Green, who finished with eight points, scored inside for the 34-31 lead at the break.

In the second 20 minutes, both teams clamped down defensively. USF hit 10-of-23 shots from the field for 43.5 percent conversion rate but were just 3-of-10 from three-point range and 8-of-14 at the foul line. However, the Vikings made just 10-of-35 shots from the field for 28.6 percent. They were 4-of-13 from three-point range but made all four of its free throws.

Early in the second half a Thompson basket helped USF to a 36-33 lead with 18:30 to play. Later he knocked down his fourth three of the game and with baskets from Green and Adams, USF pushed their advantage to 45-37 (14:05). Dylan Lebrun, who led Augustana with 14 points, started a 5-0 run with a three as the Vikings closed within 45-42 (13:01). But each time the Vikings charged at USF, the Cougars had an answer.

After the Vikings cut the lead to three, Pal hit a pair of jumpers as USF led 49-45. At the 9:45 mark, Thompson's fifth three gave USF a 54-49 lead. With 6:22 to play, Adams hit his second three for a 58-51 advantage.

Neither team had success on offense down the stretch It wasn't until AU's Tyler Riemersma hit a pair of free throws to pull the Vikings with 58-53 with 2:12 left that either team scored for over four minutes. In fact, his free throws ended a seven-minute scoring drought by the Vikings. When Thompson was fouled on a drive to the basket and made 1-of-2 free throws, he ended a five-minute scoring drought by USF. Two foul shots by Chase Grinde gave USF a 63-53 lead with 34 seconds left and basically sealed the deal. Despite two late threes by the Vikings, USF had enough on the scoreboard to secure their seventh league win and put the Cougars into first place in the NSIC.