Men's basketball: Cobbers end losing streak with big win over Johnnies

Concordia had lost five-straight close games before besting MIAC title contender St. John's on Monday.

Concordia’s Matthew Johnson (1) and Jacob Cook (33) battle for a rebound with St. John's Blake Berg (3) and Mitchell Plombon (11) on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023, at Concordia’s Memorial Auditorium in Moorhead.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

MOORHEAD — Jacob Cook scored big off the bench and Concordia was perfect from the free throw line as the Cobbers ended a difficult losing streak with an 81-76 victory over Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title contender St. John's on Monday at the Memorial Auditorium.

The win was born of a tough skin the Cobbers developed during a trying season, especially since New Years, said Cobbers head coach Tyler Bormann.

The Cobbers entered the game as a decided underdog. The Johnnies walked into the gym 12-6 overall and 9-4 in the MIAC, trailing only league-leading and 11-3 Carleton. Conversely, Concordia came in 6-13 overall and their 4-10 mark in the MIAC left them just a half game out of the cellar.

Compounding that, the Cobbers had endured a five-game losing skid and they had dropped seven of their previous eight conference games by an average of just five points per game. They lost to the Johnnies by seven in overtime on Jan. 11.

Concordia’s Rowan Nelson jumps up for two against St. John's on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023, at Concordia’s Memorial Auditorium in Moorhead.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

"A night like tonight really happens because of the resiliency our guys have shown off some of those losses," Cobbers head coach Tyler Bormann said. "Come back in the gym the next day, try and get better and stay the course. I don't know that we win this game without having to go through that the last couple of weeks.


The Cobbers built a seven-point halftime lead to as many as 12 points midway through the second half before a Johnnies run tied it 51-51 with about 11 minutes to play.

But Concordia regrouped, quickly regained the lead and never lost it — although there were tense moments — the rest of the way.

The Cobbers fell behind 21-14 early in the first half but mounted an 18-2 run that put them up 32-23 with 5:54 left in the half. They took a 38-31 lead into the break.

Concordia stretched its advantage to 12 points at 51-39 with 13:25 left before the Johnnies mounted a run of their own. They scored 12-straight points over a span of 2:37 to tie it 51-51.

But Cook hit a layup with 10:15 to play and the Cobbers never trailed again. St. John's twice got the deficit to one point in the final 2:46, only to see Matthew Johnson hit two foul shots to make it 72-69 with 2:33 to play. Zach Jackson then nailed a 3-pointer — on his only shot attempt of the night — with two minutes left and the Cobbers led 75-71.

Concordia’s Jacob Cook goes up for two against St. John's on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023, at Concordia’s Memorial Auditorium in Moorhead.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

In the final minute, Johnson hit two free throws for a 77-71 lead with 57 seconds left, and Rowan Nelson made two foul shots with 43 seconds left.

St. John's Ryan Thissen drilled a 3-pointer to cut the Cobbers' lead to 79-76 with 31 seconds to play, but Johnson's layup with 17 seconds on the clock made it 81-76 and the Johnnies' Kooper Vaughn missed a 3-point attempt as time expired.

The Cobbers shot 45 percent from the floor, including 6 of 11 shooting (54 percent) from 3-point range. But it was at the line that the Cobbers may have made the difference, hitting 25 of 25 foul shots. They needed them all, with the Johnnies shooting 47 percent from the floor and hitting 18 of 20 free throws.


"When (St. John's) tightened it up, I felt like our group dug in and found a way to get a stop when we needed one and found a way to get big buckets down the stretch," Bormann said.

Cook led the Cobbers with 27 points off the bench and he also had five rebounds. Johnson finished with 18 points and nine rebounds. Nelson and Alex Huber both scored 13 points and Nelson had five rebounds.

Thissen led the Johnnies with 27 points and Brandon Adelman came off the bench to score 17 points.

Concordia’s Dylan Inniger (23) and Jacob Cook (33) battle for the rebound against St. John's Brandon Adelman (4) and Ryan Thissen (24) on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023, at Concordia’s Memorial Auditorium in Moorhead.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

The Cobbers play host to Macalester at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1 and then are off a week before playing at Gustavus at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8.

Bormann said he was happy his team finally got a tangible reward for the work they've put in but that the Cobbers will need to continue doing what they've done to build on the win.

"It's challenging to be optimistic when the results aren't coming," Bormann said. "I think we've tried to stay really positive with our group but instill an everyday approach, an everyday work ethic. That's how we keep going."

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