VALLEY CITY, N.D. (NewsDakota.com) – Viterbo’s Robert Cunitz made two free throws with 6.2 seconds remaining Saturday, clinching an 88-84 win over Valley City State in NSAA men’s basketball.
The Vikings cut a late 11-point deficit to just two points in the final minute, but Cunitz’s two free throws put the game away.
Valley City State drops to 11-3 overall and 3-2 in the North Star Athletic Association. Viterbo University improves to 5-5 overall and 2-3 in conference play.
A disciplined Viterbo team took care of the ball against VCSU’s pressure defense, which had been forcing just over 20 turnovers per game this season. The V-Hawks turned it over just 13 times on Saturday, including only three turnovers in the first half.
A back-and-forth first half featured three ties and 10 lead changes. The Vikings held a slim 46-44 lead at the break, thanks in part to a 10-for-15 first half from 3-point range.
With the game tied 59-59 at the 14:10 mark of the second half, Viterbo started its game-changing run. The V-Hawks went on an 18-4 run over the next five minutes of play, opening up a 77-63 lead on two free throws from Spencer Speltz with 9:20 remaining.
The teams traded buckets before VCSU started its comeback, trailing 84-73 with 2:50 to go. Joshua Kelly made back-to-back driving layups to jumpstart the run, and Connor Entzi followed with a 3-pointer that made it 84-80 with 1:37 to play. Viterbo’s Noah Fredrickson pushed the lead back to 86-80 with a shot inside.
VCSU’s final-minute effort trimmed the deficit to just two points as Chris Thompson made two free throws and Kevin Schramm scored inside to make it 86-84. VCSU nearly forced a turnover but then had to foul, and Cunitz sank the two free throws to clinch the game.
Fredrickson made six 3’s for Viterbo as he finished with a game-high 24 points. Cunitz added 22 points and Jack Monis chipped in 19.
The Vikings shot 51 percent overall (30-59), 54 percent on 3’s (14-26) and 67 percent at the line (10-15). Viterbo finished at 57 percent overall (31-54), 50 percent on 3’s (11-22) and 83 percent on free throws (15-18).
Up next: Valley City State travels to Mayville State on Jan. 22 and Presentation College on Jan. 23. Viterbo hosts Bellevue on Jan. 22.
Photo Courtesy VCSU Athletics