Dec. 18, 2012
LAS VEGAS, Nevada -
Center Chris Mitchell (Sr., Everson/Nooksack Valley) had a team-high 16 points, including two critical free throws with 19.3 seconds left, lifting Western Washington University to a 72-69 victory over Drury University in first-day men's basketball action Tuesday between two nationally ranked teams at the 2012 South Point Holiday Hoops Classic being held at The Arena at South Point.
The schools entered the contest as two of 13 teams remaining unbeaten in NCAA Division II.
The defending NCAA II national champion Vikings, ranked No.5 in this week's National Association of Basketball Coaches Top 25 Poll, remained unbeaten at 8-0 and have won 14 straight games over the last two seasons, which ties for the third-longest winning streak in school history.
Drury, ranked No.14, fell to 7-1. Forward Ian Carter led the Panthers with game-highs of 20 points and 11 rebounds.
Drury tied the game at 67-67 on a fast break dunk by Cameron Adams with 2:17 to play, but Adams was assessed a technical foul for hanging on the rim, and John Allen (Sr., Brier/Mountlake Terrace) put WWU in front to stay with two free throws.
A Richard Woodworth (Jr., Bellevue/Newport) free throw extended the margin to three, but two Carter free throws with 1:07 remaining narrowed the gap to one, 70-69. A shot clock violation gave the ball back to Drury, which ran a pick-and-roll that got Brandon Lockhart into the lane on a drive. Lockhart's layup missed, and Mitchell grabbed the rebound and was fouled, then hit two free throws.
Drury had a pair of 3-point attempts in the final 10 seconds, but both were off line.
Allen finished with 15 points for the Vikings and moved into 11th place in WWU career scoring. Woodworth added 12 points, all in the second half.
Lockhart had 15 points for the Panthers, who had a 47-39 advantage in rebounds, and Alex Hall added 12.
Despite hitting just two of their first 19 shots from the field and shooting a season-low 26.5 percent (9-of-34) in the first half, the Vikings trailed by just two 38-36, at halftime.
Drury still led, 48-44, nearly five minutes into the second half, but WWU rallied with eight straight points, taking the lead on a Paul Jones (Sr., Kent/Kent-Meridian) free throw and extending the margin to four, 52-48, on a 3-pointer by Woodworth with 12:40 to play.
The 8-0 start is matches the fourth best in school history.
WWU meets Central Oklahoma on Wednesday (5 p.m.), Dec. 19, in final-day tourney action.