SIOUX FALLS, S.D.-Minnesota State Moorhead went cold on offense in the fourth quarter Sunday night at the Sanford Pentagon and the Sioux Falls Cougars made the Dragons pay.
Sioux Falls scored the game's final eight points to rally for a 59-56 upset victory against MSUM in the quarterfinals of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference women's basketball tournament before 474 fans.
"We couldn't find enough offense," Dragons head coach Karla Nelson said. "We basically fell apart in the fourth quarter and that's my responsibility, not theirs."
The No. 2 seed from the North Division, the Dragons (23-5) lost in the NSIC quarterfinals against Sioux Falls for the second consecutive season.
MSUM is ranked fourth in the latest Central Region rankings and still could earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Division II tournament. The top eight teams in the region make the national tournament, including automatic bids for the region's three conference tournament champions.
"We're kind of in that holding pattern because if there are some upsets you just never know what can happen," Nelson said. "You hope you would be playing better this time of year. Not just better, but tougher. ... If we can get a chance to play again maybe to find some more juice."
The Dragons took a 56-51 lead after senior Drew Sannes sank a turnaround jumper in the post with 3 minutes, 6 seconds remaining. The Cougars countered with the next eight points, however, holding MSUM scoreless over the final few minutes.
Sioux Falls took a 57-56 lead after sophomore guard Mariah Szymanski scored on a drive to the basket with 8 seconds to play. Szymanski added two free throws to give the Cougars a 59-56 lead with 2 seconds remaining for the final margin. She finished with a game-high 26 points.
The Dragons had a chance to tie the score at the fourth-quarter buzzer, but Jacky Volkert's 3-pointer from the corner rimmed out as time expired.
The Dragons built a 50-42 lead through three quarters, but scored only six points in the fourth quarter. MSUM shot 30 percent (8 of 27) from the field in the second half.
"We could never really sustain anything on the offensive end," Nelson said.
Sannes finished with a team-high 18 points on 8-for-11 shooting (73 percent) from the field and also grabbed eight rebounds. The 6-foot-3 forward added three blocked shots.
Sioux Falls (16-12) advanced to the tournament semifinals and will play Augustana at 8 p.m. Monday at the Sanford Pentagon. The Dragons earned a 69-58 victory against Sioux Falls on Jan. 27 in Moorhead during the regular season. MSUM shared the overall NSIC and North Division championships in the regular season.
"It's hard to even find words to describe how disappointing it is, but it's certainly not the end of the world," Nelson said.
The Dragons started strong, building a 12-point lead through one quarter. They used a 16-2 run to help build that advantage. Four different MSUM players made 3-pointers during that stretch. Freshman guard Kiley Borowicz capped the surge with a 3-pointer that gave the Dragons a 24-12 lead with 1:14 to play in the first quarter. They held a 26-14 lead through 10 minutes.
The Cougars, however, clawed back into the game with a strong second quarter. The 5-foot-6 Szymanski scored 11 points in the second. She sank a 3-pointer with 46 seconds remaining in the first half to cut the Dragons lead to 34-32, which was the score at halftime. Szymanski scored 15 points in the first half, including three 3-pointers.
Sannes had a strong first half the Dragons with 12 points over the opening 20 minutes on 5-for-7 shooting (71 percent) from the field.
"You have to give credit to Sioux Falls for embracing (the moment)," Nelson said. "Instead of just embracing it, we just fell apart."
USF 14 32 42 59
MSUM 26 34 50 56
USF (16-12): Thramer 6-10 5-8 17, Hummel 5-18 0-0 10, Mataloni 0-3 0-0 0, Szymanski 9-13 4-4 26, Huinker 3-6 0-0 6, Volesky 0-0 0-0 0, Slater 0-2 0-0 0, Sanders 0-0 0-0 0, Duffy 0-0 0-2 0. Totals 23-52 9-14 59.
MSUM (23-5): Thorson 4-9 2-2 11, Selensky 0-1 0-0 0, Fech 0-2 0-0 0, Volkert 5-15 0-0 11, Borowicz 2-8 0-0 5, Galegher 0-4 4-4 4, Green 1-5 0-0 2, Sannes 8-11 0-1 18, Hintz 2-6 1-2 5. Totals 22-61 7-9 56.
3-point goals: USF 4-14 (Hummel 0-6, Szymanski 4-5, Mataloni 0-3), MSUM 5-16 (Thorson 1-4, Volkert 1-5, Sannes 2-3, Selensky 0-1, Borowicz 1-3). Total fouls: USF 18, MSUM 17. Rebounds: USF 31 (Huinker 9), MSUM 35 (Sannes 8). Assists: USF 10 (Huinker 3), MSUM 17 (Fech 4, Selensky 4). Turnovers: USF 14 (Thramer 4, Szymanski 4), MSUM 14 (Volkert 5). A--474.