Cougars Fend Off Scrappy Peacocks 66-63
SIOUX FALLS, SD — A Cougar trio in double figures led Sioux Falls to a 66-63 victory against Upper Iowa on Saturday in the Stewart Center.
The Cougars (10-8, 7-7 NSIC) led by as many nine points in the second half but had to hold off a late Peacock charge to gut out their seventh conference victory of the season.
The win snapped the Peacocks’ (7-14, 4-10 NSIC) three-game winning streak.
Holli Aggen led USF with 14 points. Laura Johnson finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds for her fifth double-double of the season.
Kelli Hoff had the game of her life on the Cougars’ annual Basketball Alumni Day. The senior reserve center posted a career-high 11 points, seven rebounds and three steals, including the game-clinching swipe of NSIC leading scorer Whitney Kieffer in the game’s final seconds.
Kieffer finished with a game-high 26 points on 11-for-15 shooting with 10 rebounds and five steals.
It was Kieffer who led the Peacocks out of the gate. She drained a long jumper on Upper Iowa’s third possession and the Peacocks built the early 7-2 lead. USF would tie it and went ahead 8-7 after a beautiful post move by Teagan Molden. Hoff then went up-and-under for two and a three-pointer by Aggen stretched the USF advantage to 13-7 at the 10:16 mark.
The Peacocks stormed back and regained the lead at 20-18 after Kieffer converted a traditional three-point play. Upper Iowa closed out the first half on an 11-8 run and took a 31-26 lead into the half.
One of the primary factors in the Cougars’ first-half struggles was turnovers. Due to Upper Iowa’s aggressive defense, as well as uncharacteristic mental errors, USF ended the first half with seven turnovers. Upper Iowa made sure that the Cougars would pay for their mistakes, as it scored eight first-half points off USF mistakes.
The Cougars began to generate some better looks after the break and opened the second half on a 15-8 spurt to move in front by two at 41-39 and force the Peacocks to call a timeout.
The Cougars’ lead grew to nine, 55-46 while their defense held the Peacocks without a field goal for 5:19. But Upper Iowa scrapped back, tying the game at 59 after a 13-4 run that included nine straight points by Kieffer in less than a three minute span.
Free throws moved Upper Iowa in front 61-59 with 2:51 to play. Aggen missed a short jumper on the ensuing possession but got her own rebound and hit the putback to tie it at 61.
Johnson would connect from close range to give USF the 65-63 advantage. Alyssa Rushton was fouled and had a chance to ice the game, but she made only 1-of-2. Kieffer came away with the defensive rebound and was near midcourt when Hoff picked her pocket to preserve the win for the Cougars.
Chrissy Strassburg chipped in seven points for USF while Rushton and Amber Paden each had six.
The Cougars shot 43 percent from the floor, 27 percent from three and went 8-for-10 from the line. The Peacocks posted a 44 percent shooting clip but were held to just 1-for-14 from beyond the arc.
USF outrebounded UIU, 36-35. The Cougar bench outscored the Peacock reserves, 20-14.
The Cougars will travel to Minnesota, Crookston and Bemidji State next weekend.
Courtesy: University of Sioux Falls