Cougar Men Notch First Win With Strong Second Half

More news about: Concordia-Chicago

Nov. 19, 2016 - Only two games into a new season, and Concordia-Chicago head coach Randy Rogers has learned a few things about his 2016-17 Cougars. Most important to him is seeing an attitude of persistence and determination to get the job done some way, somehow. Today, that determination helped the Cougars put together a big second half that fueled a comeback 87-77 win over MacMurray in the third place game of Illinois College's Bill Merris Classic.

Trailing in the second half, CUC went on a 28-12 run, bookended by a pair of threes by Mitch Pelissierthat gave the Cougars their biggest lead to that point at 71-60. However, the Highlanders rallied and fought back to within 73-71 at the five-minute mark. At that point, one of Rogers' biggest questions was answered - and it was the answer for which he was hoping. 

"Our guys pulled together at that point and said that they've come this far, they're not going to let this one get away now," said Rogers. "Sure enough, Mike Walmer scored five big points for us, and Jarek Hotwagner had a big jumper, and we gave a great team effort in hitting the free throws and closing out the game."

The Cougars got off to a 14-8 lead in the early going, led once again by Pelissier who followed a 28-point effort last night with 26 tonight. Hotwagner and Justin Saar also canned some threes to put some rhythm into the Cougars' offense. But the Highlanders rallied behind Tim Frazier and Marshall Corbin to go on a 14-2 run and grab a six-point lead. The Cougars were able to collect themselves and get back into the chase, even coming back to take a 32-31 lead on Walmer's layup before MacMurray scored the final six points to take a 37-32 lead at halftime.

Concordia-Chicago was ready for the start of the second half as they scored the first seven points and sent a message to MacMurray. The Highlanders answered back for the next few minutes and regained a five-point lead before CUC went on the first of their two big runs. One of the keys to the Cougars' success over the next several minutes came from forward/center Justin Mack who impacted the game with more strong play in the paint. "Justin has really given us a big spark this weekend," said Rogers. 'He had another good scoring performance off the bench, and his inside game is making a difference. He had a huge offensive rebound and three-point play right after we took the lead. Justin came back this season about 25 pounds lighter, and he's had competition in practice to earn this playing time, and he is making the most of his situation." Mack finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and two blocks while junior transfer Rodrigo Nava also solidified the inside with eight points, three rebounds and three blocks, the latter stat coming after a four-block game on Friday against Illinois College.

Pelissier led the Cougars in scoring again with 26 points !0-22 FG, 3-7 3FG, 3-3 FT), seven rebounds and five assists. Walmer finished with 19 points, four assists and three steals. and Hotwagner claimed his first collegiate double-double  with 15 points and 11 rebound. Following the game, Pelissier and Walmer were named to the All-Tournament team.

MacMurray (0-3) was led by Brent Long's 23 points and 17 rebounds, while Tim Frazeir added 21 points and seven boards.

The Cougars (1-1) will face two more road challenges this week before opening the homre schedule on Nov. 30. They travel to Elmhurst College on Tuesday night and then begin conference play next Saturday, Nov. 26 at Concordia University Wisconsin.