The UMD men’s basketball team split their road trip for the second weekend in a row, visiting Sioux Falls and Southwest Minnesota State. The Bulldogs have been undergoing a one-step forward and one-step back pattern in their 2015 season, as they now sit at 8-8 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and 11-11 on the year. Their inability to obtain a positive record is similar to their inability to match their first-half play to their second.
Their step forward began in Sioux Falls with a victory over the Cougars. The Bulldogs won 74-70 after trailing by 14 at the half, fueled by an incredible display of individual performances. Brendon Pineda scored 21 points while Pierre Newton went six for nine from the floor, shot 100 percent from beyond the three-point line and grabbed six rebounds.
Newton lauded the offense and their second-half play: “The offense was flowing smooth and we played with great pace. We played with great tempo and speed and that works into my hands pretty well.”
The Bulldogs made their mark in the second half through effective shooting and aggressiveness. In the first half they went eight for 23 from the field (34.78%), four for seven from beyond the three-point line and shot only two free throws. In the second half the Bulldogs went 13 for 24 from the field, six for 10 from beyond the three-point line and shot a whopping 22 free throws. This pattern followed them into Saturday.
The Bulldogs began their second game at Southwest Minnesota State in Marshall, Minnesota where they lost to the Mustangs 78-59. Yet again, the Bulldogs were once again able to put together a second-half comeback, but this time the hole was too deep.
The contrast is stark; in the first half the Bulldogs shot nine for 28 from the field and went two for nine from beyond the arc. The second half featured the Bulldogs shooting 12 for 23 while shooting six for 10 beyond the three-point line. Southwest Minnesota State didn’t simmer down either, where they shot 56 percent from the field and went seven for 10 from beyond the three-point line while forcing six Bulldog turnovers and allowing only two free throws.
However, guard Taylor Lavery thinks issues go beyond the offensive end.
“We need to come out and play the pace of basketball we know how to play,” Lavery said. “The difference between the halves is that we lose focus on the defensive end at times, which hurts us. What contributed to our loss against Southwest State was our lack of communication. We need to maintain focus for a whole 40 minutes for us to be successful.”
The Bulldogs come home this weekend to play Upper Iowa on Friday at 8 p.m. then tip-off with Winona State on Saturday at 6 p.m.
BY WILLIAM E. CASSERLY Statesman Correspondent