USF Suffers First Loss in Conference Opener
The Cougars dropped to 4-1 (0-1, NSIC), while the Mustangs improved to 4-4 (1-0, NSIC) with the win.
It took the Cougars a few minutes to become acclimated with SMSU's zone defense, but once USF was able to settle in good things happened. A great deal of the Cougars early success could be traced back to Derek Brown, who tallied a game-high 8 points, including two big 3-pointers in the opening period.
Brown's 3-pointer near the 6:00 mark gave USF a seven point lead, their largest of the first half, but the two teams would go back and forth before heading to intermission tied, 25-25.
Brown stayed hot, but as a team USF remained cold in the second half. They shot just 36% in comparison to SMSU, who fired at a 62% rate in the final period.
Half-way through the second period, the Mustangs began made their move. SMSU went on a 15-2 scoring run to secure a 14-point lead with just over 6:00 to play.
Lavione West applied a dagger with 3:06 on the clock, nailing an uncharacteristic 3-pointer to stretch SMSU's lead to 17 points. The Cougars continued to fight, and a step back 3-pointer from Brown cut the home team's lead to eight points, but that is as close as USF would come before suffering a 10-point defeat on the road.
USF won the battle of the benches, outscoring SMSU's bench 41-26. However, the Mustangs owned the paint, where they held a 30-18 scoring advantage for the night.
The Cougars were also outrebounded for just the second time this season. USF finished 12 below their average with just 25 boards, while SMSU tallied 34.
SMSU had three players in double-figures in Jordan Miller, Vinard Birch and West. Miller led the Mustangs with 16 points, including a number of big shots in the second half. Birch and West added 11 point each for the home team.
Brown finished 5-8 from downtown, and 4-4 at the line to post a team-best 23 points tonight. He was the only USF player in double-digit scoring. The next closet player was James Rader. Rader posted seven points on 2-6 shooting from the floor.
USF heads to Wayne State Friday, December 7 before returning to Sioux Falls to face crosstown rival Augustana Saturday, December 8.