SIOUX CITY | Morningside seized control in the second half, moving into a tie for first place in the Great Plains Athletic Conference men’s basketball standings with a 99-85 triumph over crosstown rival Briar Cliff Saturday at Allee Gym.
An estimated crowd of 2,000 watched the host Mustangs snap a six-game losing streak against their longtime rivals and remain unbeaten at home. In the process, Morningside tied defending champ Briar Cliff for the league lead, each with 10-3 marks.
Trailing by nine points at halftime, Morningside (18-5) completely turned the tables after intermission, outscoring the Chargers 56-33. The Mustangs shot 61 percent in the second half while Briar Cliff made only 8 of 33 attempts for a paltry 24.3 percent.
“The first half was a horserace and we turned it over too many times and missed too many free throws,” Morningside Coach Jim Sykes said. “Second half we just settled down. We talked about a few adjustments at halftime defensively but it was, hey, if we give these guys another 52 points we’re losing.
“We’ve got to get some stops and force them to play from behind. It’s a lot easier shooting those shots when you’re ahead by five or 10 as opposed to down five or 10. They got into a little bit of foul trouble, but that second half is what epitomizes Morningside basketball, they played for each other.”
NAIA Division II fourth-ranked Briar Cliff led the No. 9 Mustangs 52-43 at halftime, shooting 60 percent and making 11 3-pointers. Morningside cashed in on nine shots from beyond the arc and shot 53 percent.
Briar Cliff still led 62-53 with less than 14 minutes remaining when Alex Borchers started an 11-1 Mustang run with a layup. Pierce Almond’s layup put Morningside in front, 64-63, midway through the second half.
It was back and forth the next five minutes and Briar Cliff took an 80-78 lead on a basket by Jay Wolfe with 5:18 remaining. Two free throws by Alex Borchers tied it and Matthew Hahn followed with seven unanswered points and Morningside’s 12-0 run by capped by a Brody Egger 3-pointer, making the score 90-80 with 2:35 left.
Hahn tossed in a season-high 26 points, nailing five of seven 3-point shots. Egger and Alex Borchers finished with 22 points apiece while freshman Trey Brown had 10 points in a reserve role.
“I feel like we really started to take care of the basketball and made our free throws and finished around the rim,” Hahn said. “In the first half we missed a lot of bunnies that put us behind because they would get in transition and get a bucket. We cleaned those three things up and won the game.”
Tyler Borchers, playing at less than 100 percent (sore back), matched his season high with 13 rebounds to go along with nine points. Brown added seven caroms as the Mustangs held a 38-28 advantage on the boards.
Erich Erdman paced Briar Cliff (21-4, 10-3) with 23 points, while Wolfe chipped in 17 and freshman Ethan Freidel 15 points (five 3-pointers). Blake Wiltgen just missed a double-double with nine points and eight rebounds.
“We had a hard time getting it going offensively to start the second half and we lost our intensity on defense,” Briar Cliff Coach Mark Svagera said. “I thought our intensity was really high in the first half and we lost that a little in the second half. As we struggled to score as the half went on it was almost like we gave up easier and easier looks to them.
“You have to give a lot of credit to Morningside, they made some big time plays down the stretch to extend the lead from two to 10 in what seemed like 20 seconds.”
The Chargers finished 17 of 39 from the arc, but made only seven two-point baskets the entire game.