#6 Indiana Wesleyan held off Trinity Christian 67-61 in the first round of the 2009 NAIA D-II Men's Basketball National Championship. The 18th-annual event is being held at the Keeter Gymnasium on the campus of the College of the Ozarks (Mo.).
Trinity Christian opened the game with a 12-5 run but the Wildcats, behind 57% shooting in the first half, tied the game at 18. Leading by two (23-21), Indiana Wesleyan limited the Trolls to just one basket over the final five minutes to take a 30-23 lead at intermission. Trinity struggled from the field, shooting just 17% from beyond the arc.
Indiana Wesleyan began the second half on an 8-2 run and held its largest lead, 38-25. The Trolls came storming back to tie the game at 49 after a basket by Alex Rusticus with over eight minutes to go. A Will Bruinsma three-pointer put Trinity Christian up by one (59-58) but the Wildcats clamped down defensively and closed the game with a 9-2 run to earn the win. Indiana Wesleyan limited Trinity Christian to just one basket over the final three minutes.
The Wildcats registered three players in double figures, led by Antonio Murrell with 18. Jon Moon and Zach Coverstone added 15 and 12 points, respectively. Murrell and Moon combined for six three-pointers. Indiana Wesleyan shot 55% for the game.
Trinity Christian was led in scoring by Ross Stuursma with 18 points on 8-of-10 from the field. Kurt Gruppen, the Chicagoland Collegiate Conference player-of-the-year, netted 17 points while Alex Rusticus scored eight and pulled down 12 rebounds. After shooting just 37% in the first half, the Trolls made 55% of their field goal attempts in the second half. They shot 46% for the game. Trinity Christian, making its second appearance at the national tournament, ends the season at 23-9.
Indiana Wesleyan improves to 28-6 overall and will play either #11 Bluefield (Va.) or Evergreen State (Wash.) on Friday, March 13 at 4:00 p.m. The 32-team, single elimination tournament concludes March 17, 2009.
The Wildcats trailed 59-58 with under three minutes to play. Senior forward Landon Adler hit bucket down low and was fouled with 2:05 on the clock for a three-point play to give IWU the 61-59 advantage.
Both teams missed shots in their next possession. Trinity Christian looked to tie or take the lead but senior guard Antonio Murrell stripped the ball lose and scored on a fast break give-and-go with Adler to increase the Wildcat lead to two possessions at 63-59 and 50 seconds to go.
The Trolls missed a 3-point attempt and grabbed the offense rebound, but missed again as the Wildcats grabbed the rebound. IWU junior guard Spencer Harris was fouled with 30 seconds to play and iced the game with two free throws.
The 2006-07 National Champions are a No. 5-seed in this year's tournament and will square off with No. 4-seed Mount Marty (S.D.) College at 8:30 a.m. CT/9:30 a.m. ET on Thursday, March 12.
Mount Marty is out of Yankton, South Dakota and is currently 24-8 on the season. The Lancers finished 14-4 in the Great Plains Athletic Conference for a third place finish. Mount Marty lost in the GPAC semifinals to unbeaten Morningside (Iowa) College.
Like the Mid-Central College Conference, the GPAC earned four bids to the national tournament. The GPAC has won seven of the last eight national titles and had won six straight before the Wildcats clinched the 2007 championship.
The only common opponent between the schools is Morningside. Indiana Wesleyan lost a 62-54 decision to the No. 1-ranked team while Mount Marty lost 73-50 and 69-62.
The Lancers enter national tournament play winners of 10 of their last 11 contests and are 13-3 since the turn of the calendar year. Six of their eight losses this season have come to teams in the NAIA Division II National Championship while the other two have come against NCAA Division I South Dakota State University and Vanguard (Calif.) University, ranked No. 2 in NAIA Division I.
Mount Marty made a steady climb in the national poll this season. MMC was not ranked in the preseason coaches' poll and did not crack the top-25 until the third poll on January 5. Mount Marty progressed up the rankings until reaching their season high of No. 14 in the final poll on March 4.
Mount Marty boasts four players in double figure scoring this season, led by their backcourt of junior guard Michelle Amundson with 14.8 points and senior guard Katelynn Kunz with 14.2 points. Senior center Amber Marsden adds 13.2 points and sophomore guard Lacey Powell chips in with 11.6 points.
Marsden pulls down a team-best 7.7 rebounds per game and Kunz adds 5.2 caroms. Amundson, in addition to being the Lancers' leading scorer, dishes out 4.2 assist per contest.
No player on Mount Marty is shooting over 50.0-percent from the floor as they shoot 44.3-percent from the field as a team. Despite the lack of a high-percentage shooter, Mount Marty is seventh in NAIA Division II in 3-Point Field Goal Percentage (37.5-percent), 12th in Field Goal Percentage and 24th in Scoring per Game (72.6 points).
Oklahoma Wesleyan University, the nation’s top-ranked team for the last four weeks, earns the No. 1 seed. The Eagles stand 30-2 and take on Fisher (Mass.) College, winners of the Sunrise Conference Tournament, at 7:30 p.m. CST on Thursday (March 12). OWU has won 13 straight games and comes into its second ever Championship with a 1-1 record.
Defending national champion and No. 7 seed, Oregon Tech opens up play with a 9:45 p.m. game against Iowa Wesleyan on Wednesday. Host school, Ozarks, will face No. 14 Aquinas (Mich.) at 8 p.m. on Wednesday.
Oregon Tech owns the most wins (25) amongst this year’s participants and is making its 11th overall appearance. Bethel (Ind.) is right behind with 22 victories in this, its eighth Championship appearance. Ozarks stand 18-11 overall in 12 previous tournaments. Overall, nine programs are seeking win No. 1 in this year’s Championship. Conversely, 15 teams have at least five years of Championship appearance.
In all, there are 31 games spanning seven days. The first three days pack in eight games each day starting at 8:30 a.m. For ticket information, call 417-335-6242.
The first 30 games of the Championships will be video-streamed live on the Internet, while the National Championship Game on March 17 at 8:50 p.m. CST will air live nationwide on CBS College Sports Television with Jason Knapp calling the action and Sean Farnham providing color analysis.
tournament will start with the first round games on
Wednesday, March 11 and Thursday, March 12 and will
end with the championship game on Tuesday, March 17
at 7 p.m.
JumpTV Inc. is the exclusive provider of live video and audio-streaming at the NAIA National Championship. JumpTV will stream the first 30 games of the championships. These events can be viewed by going to www.watchnaia.com. The National Championship Game will air live nationwide on CBS College Sports.
In 2008 Northwestern (Iowa) used a strong second half to earn a hard fought 82-75 victory over the College of the Ozarks (Mo.) to capture its second title.
Three schools have captured back-to-back titles in Division II history. Western Oregon (1995 and 1996), Hastings (Neb.) (2002 and 2003) and Morningside (Iowa) (2004 and 2005) all defended their title after winning their first championship.
has captured the most championships with three, while
Morningside, Northern State (S.D.), Northwestern
(Iowa) and Western Oregon all won two titles.
The schools from Great Plains Athletic Conference have captured seven of the last eight national championships. Indiana Wesleyan won the title in 2007 breaking the streak of six straight by GPAC schools.
The 18th Annual NAIA Division II Men's Basketball National Championship will be held March 11-17 in Point Lookout, Missouri. The College of the Ozarks is the host site.
Indiana Wesleyan will enter the national tournament with a 27-6 record and co-champions of the Mid-Central College Conference regular season. IWU lost 74-70 in the MCC Tournament championship to then No. 3-ranked Bethel (Ind.) College.
The 32-team field consists of 21 automatic qualifiers, 10 at-large selections plus a spot for the host school.
The NAIA released its final Top-25 Coaches' Poll in conjunction with the list of national tournament qualifiers, which determined the at-large bids. Indiana Wesleyan held firm in the last poll at No. 6 to earn the first at-large selection.
Indiana Wesleyan will make it second ever appearance at the national tournament and second in three seasons. The Wildcats advanced to the Elite Eight in 2006-07 before falling to eventual national champion MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) University.
The Wildcats will be joined at the national tournament by two other MCC programs. Bethel (Ind.) College earned the conference's automatic bid by winning the MCC Tournament and Grace (Ind.) College received the ninth of 10 at-large berths.
The NAIA Division II Men's Basketball National Championship will release the official bracket on Thursday.