SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- The 20th-ranked Mules built a 14-point second half lead then held off a late charge from Northern State to earn an 82-72 win in the Central Regional opener on Saturday at the Sanford Pentagon. The Wolves got to within two of the Mules, but UCM got some clutch buckets and was able to ice the game at the foul line.

The Mules (25-6) broke a 4-all tie with a 7-2 spurt capped by a Brad Woodson three-pointer to lead 11-6 with 13:07 to go in the first half. The Wolves (23-9) responded with four quick points to cut the lead to one at the 11:09 mark.

A three from Rakeem Dickerson started an 11-2 run that gave the Mules a 10-point cushion, 22-12, with 8:39 to play in the opening half. The Wolves were able to claw back to within five by the 6:35 mark, but the Mules kept the pressure on with hot shooting. A layup from Dickerson pushed the lead to five and following an NSU free throw, Kyle Wolf drilled a three to give UCM a 31-22 lead.

The Wolves got back to within eight on a couple of occasions, but a jumper from TJ White and a layup from Dillon Deck pushed the Mule lead to 12 at 40-28. Mitch White drained a three for Northern State with just under two minutes to play in the half, but Deck made 1-of-2 foul shots and White scored with just under a minute to play in the half and UCM led 43-31 at halftime.

Northern State opened the second half on a 5-0 run to pull within seven, but Brennen Hughes' layup with 17:56 to play made it a nine-point lead. Two foul shots from NSU cut it to seven, but Hughes put UCM back in front by nine with a thunderous dunk over an NSU defender. The dunk sparked a 7-1 run that gave the Mules a 52-39 lead with 14:32 to play in the game.

The Mules pushed the lead to 14 at 60-46 with 12:05 to play in the game, but that's when the Wolves started their comeback. They cut the lead to nine at 64-55 by the 8:07 mark then cut it to five on buckets from Darin Peterka and DJ Pollard with 7:09 to play.

A pair of free throws from Tydan Stottusten cut the lead to three at the 6;47 mark, but Hughes scored on a layup to push the lead to five and Kyle Wolf knocked down two foul shots to give UCM a 68-61 lead with 6:02 to play. Hughes made one of two free throws to push the lead to eight, but after a pair of traded buckets Skye Warwick hit a three and the lead was five with 4:32 to play. Pollard made two more foul shots to cut the lead to three and two more on the next trip to make it a two-point game, 72-70, with 2:15 to play.

Deck came up with a huge tip-in on the Mules' next possession to push the lead back to four then made one of two free throws to give UCM a five-point cushion. Following a missed three pointer by NSU, Preston Brunz calmly hit two free throws and UCM led 77-70 with :59 to play. The Mules would make 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch to salt the game away and come out with the 82-72 win.

Dickerson led UCM w/ 22 points to go along with six assists. Deck added 18 points and six rebounds while Wolf had 11 points and seven boards and White chipped in 10 points. The Mules shot 55 percent from the field, 26-of-47, and were 4-of-8 from beyond the arc. UCM was 26-of-35 at the foul line for 74 percent.

The Wolves were led by Pollard's game-high 24 points. Seth Bachand had 14 and Peterka added 11. NSU was 22-of-52 from the field for 42 percent and made just 4-of-23 three-point attempts for 17 percent. They were 24-of-32 at the foul line for 75 percent, including 20-of-24 in the second half.

The Mules out-scored the Wolves 42-34 in the paint and held a 37-24 advantage in rebounding.

With the win, UCM advances to the Central Region Semifinals on Sunday night at 5 p.m. against either No. 2 seed Minnesota State-Moorhead or seventh-seeded Pittsburg State.

(Courtesy of UCM Athletics)