Wildcat men settle for split with No. 22 USF


The Wayne State men’s basketball team played well against No. 22-ranked Sioux Falls, ending the week with a 71-46 rout Saturday.

Wayne State opened the game making 13 of their first 16 shots that included 6-of-6 from the 3-point line to build a 31-18 lead midway through the half.

Sioux Falls got off to a quick lead as senior forward Teathloach Pal scored the first seven Cougar points in less than two minutes for an early 7-2 lead, but Wayne State scored the next eight points and took the lead for good on back-to-back treys by freshman guard Jay Saunders.

The Wildcats maintained a double digit lead the rest of the half and held a 45-26 lead at intermission, making 16-of-24 shots and 6-of-10 behind the arc to go with 7-of-8 free throws.

Wayne State shut down the Cougars in the second half, holding USF to just 26 percent shooting on 6-of-23 while WSC used a balanced attack to maintain the advantage with reserves dominating play late.

Jordan Janssen and Saunders led WSC in scoring with 11 points apiece while Nate Mohr finished with 10.

Wayne State ended the game making 26-of-48 shots for 54.2 percent including 9-for-19 from the 3-point line. The Wildcats were 10-for-12 at the charity stripe.

WSC won the rebounding battle 34-27 thanks to a career-best 11 boards from redshirt freshman Justin Eagins. Alec Millender had five assists with Saunders handing out four assists.

On Friday, Wayne State rallied from a 16-point deficit with 15:00 to play to take a short-lived lead, but couldn’t hang on as the Cougars came away with a 70-68 win at Rice Auditorium.

The first half was close early, but a scoring surge by Sioux Falls in the final eight minutes gave the Cougars a double digit lead at halftime, 40-24.

Sioux Falls maintained a double digit cushion for the first eight minutes of the second half when the Wildcats began their comeback. The Cougars held a 47-31 lead with 15:10 to play and still held a double figure lead at 53-42 with 10:47 to play when the ‘Cats made their move.

A Nate Mohr jumper, Eagins 3-pointer and free throw from Mohr cut the Cougar advantage to 53-48 with 9:48 left.

Sioux Falls maintained their lead and was in front by seven at 63-56 with 4:31 to play, but Wayne State scored the next eight points, capped by a Cody McCullough layup with 2:02 to play, that gave Wayne State a 64-63 lead and its first lead since 2-0 to start the game.

A Saunders layup off a USF turnover put the ‘Cats up three at 66-63, but the Cougars used baskets by Chase Grinde and Teathloach Pal to regain the lead at 67-66 with 49 seconds to play.

A Janssen basket gave WSC its final lead at 68-67, but Pal scored on the next possession for USF on a layup to give the Cougars a 69-68 lead. Mohr missed a 3-pointer for WSC with 1.0 seconds left and Grinde made one of two free throws to seal the win for Sioux Falls.

Mohr led WSC in scoring with 17 points followed by Janssen with 12.  Saunders and Eagins each scored 11.

The Cougars dominated WSC on the boards 37-22 with 17 offensive rebounds.  Wayne State’s top rebounder was Janssen with nine, who also had five assists and two blocks for the Wildcats.

The Wildcats will be on the road next weekend for NSIC South Division games at Southwest Minnesota State Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 4 p.m.