Bluejays fly past Cougars, 75-59
WORTHINGTON -- Stretching a 31-27 halftime lead into a 60-32 bulge over the second half's initial 11-plus minutes Saturday afternoon, the Minnesota West Bluejays men's basketball team earned a 75-59 non-conference victory over the University of Sioux Falls JV Cougars.
Minnesota West improves to 2-2 on the season and will host Missouri State-Mid Plains Wednesday at 7 p.m.
"We played extremely hard on both ends of the court today," Bluejays head coach Justin Heckenlaible said after the game. "We made some things happen with our full-court, man-to-man defensive pressure, and we really maintained our intensity throughout the entire 40 minutes of action."
Sophomore guard Eddie Marrs (game-high 25 points) nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer to end the first half, giving the Bluejays a 31-27 lead at the intermission.
Minnesota West controlled the game from that point on, as the Bluejays scored 20 points in the second half's first eight minutes to take a 51-30 advantage.
West's sophomore guard Chris Aggen (14 points) and sophomore forward Gordy Sanford (11 points, all in second half) each fired in a three-pointer to put the Bluejays up 37-27 -- their first double-digit lead of the game -- with 17:49 to play.
After the Cougars' Dustin Huisman (10 points) hit a trey from the top of the key with 16:19 remaining, the Bluejays went on a 14-0 burst to build a 51-30 lead with 12:06 to play.
Sanford was the catalyst during the game-changing run for the Bluejays, as he drained a trio of free throws after being fouled on a three-point attempt to account for the first points of the four-minute stretch.
Marrs later made a nice entry pass to Justin Lee, who sealed his defender in the post and converted his basket into a three-point play for a 43-30 lead.
On the Bluejays' next possession, Sanford made a diving save along the baseline to keep the ball alive and then received a cross-court delivery from Aggen for a three-pointer from the left wing.
Marrs scored the final five points in the run with two free throws and a three-pointer to beat the shot clock to sandwich a diving, loose-ball recovery by Sanford, who earlier had an impressive baseline drive-and-dunk waved off due to an offensive foul.
"We came out really strong to start the second half," Heckenlaible said. "We wanted to rebound better on both ends and improve our offensive execution. We did both of those things, plus we were able to get out on the break and score some easy baskets in transition."
Nick Jongeling's inside basket with 11:29 to play gave the Cougars their first points in nearly five minutes, but the Bluejays responded with a 9-0 run to build their 60-32 lead with 8:39 left.
A Marrs-to-Sanford ally-oop lay-up in transition highlighted the sequence, while Kirk Eggleston's lay-up off a steal, Aggen's two free throws and Devon Harrell's three-pointer from the left corner gave the Bluejays their other points.
Sioux Falls came back with 10 straight points to make it 60-42 with seven minutes left, but the Bluejays maintained a near 20-point lead the rest of the way to secure the victory.
The Cougars opened the game by scoring the first four points on a free throw by Bret Bielke (11 points) and a three-pointer in the right corner by Huisman.
West answered with a 12-2 run to go up 12-6 with 15:43 to play in the first half. Aggen and Aaron Delaney each had a three-pointer in the surge for the Bluejays, who continued to lead by four-to-seven points for most of the first half.
Sioux Falls, though, later took a 24-23 lead and held a 27-26 edge with under five minutes remaining before Marrs hit a pull-up jumper from the free-throw line and beat the buzzer with his three-pointer to lift the Bluejays to their four-point halftime advantage -- setting up the second-half surge for Minnesota West.
USF JV 27 32 -- 59
MW 31 44 -- 75
USF JV (3PT-2PT-FT-TP): Brown 4-2-0-16, Holt 0-1-0-2, Baldwin 0-3-1-7, Sittig 0-1-0-2, Bielke 2-2-1-11, Wolfswinkel 0-1-0-2, Christopher 0-0-1-1, Jongeling 0-4-0-8, Huisman 2-2-0-10. Totals: 8-16-3-59.
MW (3PT-2PT-FT-TP): Schaefer 1-0-0-3, Harrell 2-0-0-6, Delaney 1-0-0-3, Aggen 2-2-4-14, Marrs 2-7-5-25, Sanford 2-1-3-11, Clark 0-1-0-2, Eggleston 0-2-0-4, Lee 0-3-1-7. Totals: 10-16-13-75.