WWU to meet Montevallo for NCAA II national championship
March 23, 2012
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - The Western Washington University men's basketball team launches into uncharted territory Saturday, as the Vikings play in the first national title game in the 110-year history of the program.
The Vikings, ranked No.12 nationally, meet No. 22 University of Montevallo (Alabama) in the NCAA Division II National Championship game. The game, which tips off at 10 a.m. PDT, will be televised nationally on CBS with Tim Brando and Dan Bonner calling the action. Radio coverage is provided by KPUG 1170 and kpug1170.com with Doug Lange handling play-by-play and Mark Scholten providing color commentary.
WWU enters the championship contest 30-5, having already established a school record for victories in a season. The Vikings, the West Region champion, defeated Midwestern State, Texas, 64-63, in a quarterfinal game Wednesday, and toppled Stonehill, Mass., 71-66, in the semifinals Thursday.
It is just the second trip to the Elite Eight for the Vikings, who reached the semifinals in 2001.
Montevallo is 29-7. The Falcons, champions of the Southeast Region, reached the championship by defeating Metro State, 67-65, in the quarterfinals, then knocking off defending national champion Bellarmine, 79-72, on Thursday.
The 2012 Elite Eight thus far has seen a series of tightly contested games, with the average margin of victory being just 5.8 points and no game being decided by more than nine. The close games are nothing new for the Vikings, who are 11-2 in games decided by six points or less, including four of their five national tournament triumphs.
Senior forward Rory Blanche has been WWU's leading scorer and rebounder on the season, contributing 16.1 points and 7.0 rebounds a game, and he has led the Vikings in scoring in both Elite Eight contests, scoring 15 points against Midwestern State and 16 against Stonehill. Blanche, who has shot 59.7 percent from the field this season, is 13-of-19 (68.4 percent) in the Elite Eight.
Junior guard John Allen and sophomore guard Richard Woodworth have also scored in double figures in each of the Elite Eight games. Allen is averaging 14.6 points on the season, shooting 41.1 percent (74-of-180) on three-pointers and 89.1 percent (90-of-101) on free throws. Woodworth contributes 10.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists.
WWU, which has won its last five games, has been outstanding defensively in its tournament run. The Vikings have held opponents under 41.0 percent from the field in each of the last four contests, a feat they accomplished just five times in the first 30 games of the season.
The top threat for Montevallo, which has won 10 straight games and 15 of its last 17, is 6-4 senior guard D.J. Rivera, a consensus All-American who contributes 21.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.4 steals, and had three games of 33 points or more. Senior guard Antoine Davis, the Peach Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year, contributes 13.9 points and grabs 5.5 rebounds despite being 5-10.
It is the third trip to the Elite Eight for the Falcons, who lost in the quarterfinals in 2006 and 2007.
CLOSER THE BETTER: WWU is 11-2 this season in games decided by six or less points.
TOP 25 SUCCESS: WWU has won six of seven games this season against teams ranked in the NCAA II Top 25 at the time. Two of the victories were over Alaska Anchorage (No.8 and No.17) and one each against Seattle Pacific (No.24), BYU Hawaii (No.3), Rollins FL (No.10) and Midwestern State TX (No.5) in the Elite Eight quarterfinals. The Vikings' lone loss was to Alabama Huntsville (No.18), which reached the Elite Eight quarterfinals as the South Region champion.
WWU VERSUS TOP 25 TEAMS:
VICTORIES: The Vikings' 30 victories are a school record and their 17 home wins (17-1) are a program best. WWU won 28 games in 1987-88, taking the NAIA District 1 title and reaching the second round at nationals. The Vikings' previous best home court victory total was 16 achieved during the 1987-88 and 2000-01 seasons.
2012 WEST REGION CHAMPS: WWU captured the West Regional crown with a 56-50 victory over No.3 seed Seattle Pacific in the championship game on March 12. The Vikings, who were the No.1 seed and tourney host, reached the final with a first-round victory over No.8 seed Grand Canyon, 79-73, and defeated No.5 Chico State, 74-65, in the semifinals. It was the sixth regional appearance and the third final for WWU (joined NCAA in 1998), which has been the host five times.
In 2001, the Vikings defeated Cal State San Bernardino, 58-55, for the title and got to the national semifinals. In 2006, they lost 81-77 in the regional final to host Seattle Pacific.
GNAC: WWU won the regular-season Great Northwest Athletic Conference title with a 16-2 record, then lost in the semifinals of the league's post-season tournament, 82-78, to eventual champion Montana State Billings. The Vikings won their first eight GNAC road games, a league record, finishing 8-1 in a bid to become the first team in the league's 11-year history to go unbeaten on the road during the regular season.
20 WINS: WWU's 20-win season is its third in the last four years and the 12th for the Vikings in Brad Jackson's 27 seasons as head coach.
WEST REGION SUCCESS AT ELITE EIGHT: This marks the fourth year that the West Region representative has gotten to the national title game. Last year, BYU-Hawaii lost in the final. In 2010, Cal Poly Pomona won the national title after beating WWU, 76-75 in overtime, in the regional semifinals. Cal Poly Pomona also reached the national final in 2009.
WWU AD WAS STANDOUT HOOPS COACH: Lynda Goodrich is in her 25th year as Director of Athletics at WWU. Prior to that, she was a NAIA Hall of Fame women's basketball coach for the Vikings with 411 wins in 19 seasons. That included 18 post-season appearances with three trips to the AIAW National Tournament and two trips to the NAIA National Tournament.
TWO MORE VIKING ROUNDBALL MENTORS OF NOTE: Current WWU women's hoops coach Carmen Dolfo is in her 21st season with 446 victories, and former Viking men's coach Chuck Randall, the inventor of the Slam-Dunk Rim, had 275 wins in 18 seasons (1963-81).
MONTEVALLO: Montevallo, ranked No. 22 nationally, is 29-7 overall and riding a 10-game winning streak. The Falcons are making their seventh NCAA II tournament appearance in the last nine seasons. It is their third trip to the Elite Eight, losing in the quarterfinals in 2006 and 2007. Montevallo was the Southeast Region champion and won the Peach Belt Conference title (12-5). The Falcons rank fifth nationally in rebound margin (9.6) and 13th in field-goal percentage defense (39.7). Montevallo is led by 6-4 senior guard D.J. Rivera (21.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg), a consensus All-American and Most Outstanding Player at the regional tournament, who already has scored a school season record 735 points. Another top player for coach Danny Young (9th year, 206-86, overall 256-97) is 5-10 senior guard Antoine Davis (13.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.9 apg) , who was the conference Defensive Player of the Year.
BLANCHE: Senior forward Rory Blanche is a first-team NABC and Daktronics West Region all-star, unanimous first-team GNAC all-star and a West Regional all-tournament pick. He paces the Vikings in both points and rebounds with respective per game averages of 16.1 and 7.0. Blanche ranks 14th nationally in field-goal shooting at 59.7 percent (240-of-402).
Blanche, who is 13th all-time in WWU career scoring with 1,264 points, has had seven double-doubles in points and rebounds this season and has scored double-figure points in 49 of his last 53 games. He scored a career-high 30 points in a 77-67 win at Northwest Nazarene on Feb. 16.
Blanche was a first-team CoSIDA Capital One NCAA II Academic All-American, just the third Viking student-athlete in any sport to receive that honor, and earned GNAC Academic all-star honors for the third straight season.
ALLEN: Junior guard John Allen was named the 2012 West Regional Most Outstanding Player and was a second-team all-GNAC pick for the second straight year. He is averaging 14.6 points and ranks 11th nationally and led the GNAC in free throw percentage at 89.1 (90-of-101).
Last year, Allen scored 43 points in a win over Simon Fraser, the second-highest total ever by a WWU player and a school record at Carver Gym.
Allen had 32 points, the most by a Viking this season, on 12-of-14 field-goal shooting in a 99-86 win over arch-rival Central Washington on Jan. 18 before a regional TV audience and 2,012 fans.
HENIFIN: Senior forward Zach Henifin, a West Regional all-tournament pick, is averaging 10.6 points and 6.0 rebounds.
WOODWORTH: Sophomore guard Richard Woodworth is averaging 10.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists. Shooting 46.3 percent (37-of-80) from three-point range, he received GNAC all-star honorable mention.
MITCHELL: Rounding out the first five is junior center Chris Mitchell, who is averaging 6.6 points and 4.4 rebounds. He is shooting 40.7 percent (27-48) from three-point range. Mitchell was a repeat selection on the GNAC Academic all-star team.
BENCH: Top players off the bench have been junior guard Rico Wilkins (7.4 ppg), junior forward Paul Jones (7.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg), who is hitting 83.6 percent (61-of-73) at the free-throw line; senior center Dan Young (2.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.1 bpg), and sophomore guard Dane Thorpe (2.3 ppg, 1.4 rpg).
2012 NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Championship
at Highland Heights, Ky (host Northern Kentucky)
(All times - Eastern)
Quarterfinals, March 21 Stonehill 91, West Liberty 90 Western Washington 64, Midwestern State 63 Bellarmine 82, Alabama-Huntsville 73 Montevallo 67, Metro State 65
2012 NCAA DIVISION II WEST REGIONAL
host Western Washington University, Sam Carver Gymnasium - Bellingham, Wash.
WWU NCAA II APPEARANCES:
VIKING NOTES: WWU was No.1 in the West Region in all three ratings prior to the announcing of its No.1 seed on March 4 ... The Vikings have had winning streaks of nine and 10 games this season ... In January, Allen became the first player in GNAC history to earn outright Player of the Week honors in back-to-back weeks ... WWU has made 10 or more treys seven times this season with a high of 14 against Rollins on Dec. 15 ... The Vikings tied a school record for three-point percentage in a game at 66.7, making 12-of-18 at Western Oregon on Feb. 2.
Blanche has 1,264 points and 539 rebounds during his four-year career, and is hitting 60.3 percent (538-of-892, ranks fourth in GNAC history) from the field ... Henifin was named GNAC Player of the Week for his all-tournament performance at the Great Western Shootout and Woodworth earned the that honor in leading WWU's home sweep of Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Fairbanks ... Both Allen and Blanche were all-tournament picks at the Disney West Coast Classic ... In mid-January, the Vikings became just the second school in GNAC history to sweep an Alaskan road trip two straight years. In all, they have a conference best four sweeps in the 49th state ... WWU lost senior forward Shedrick Nelson, a top reserve, for the season against Notre Dame de Namur on Nov. 11 when he tore both the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee near the end of the game.
WWU ACADEMIC HONORS: Rory Blanche was named a first-team CoSIDA Capital One NCAA II Academic All-American. He also was a first-team academic all-district honoree and a GNAC Academic all-star for the third time. Blanche is a manufacturing engineering technology major maintaining a 3.74 grade point average (4.0 scale) ... Chris Mitchell was a repeat selection as a GNAC Academic all-star. He is a physical education major with a 3.43 GPA.
COACH JACKSON: Brad Jackson is in his 27th season, the longest tenure of any coach in WWU history in any sport. Named this season's NABC West District and GNAC Coach of the Year, he is the most successful men's basketball coach in school history, both in total wins (517-279) and winning percentage (.649). Prior to this season, Jackson ranked No.13 among active NCAA II coaches in victories.
Jackson has directed the Vikings to 20 post-season appearances and 12 20-win seasons during his tenure. WWU reached the regional semifinals in 2010, losing 76-75 in overtime to eventual national champion Cal Poly Pomona.
The Jackson-led Vikings also have gotten to the NCAA II tournament in 2001, 2005, 2006 and 2009. In 2001, they finished 27-4, won the regional title and reached the national semifinals, Jackson being named NABC/NCAA II West Region, Northwest small college and Pacific West Conference Coach of the Year.
Jackson served as an assistant coach at Seattle Pacific for five years under Keith Swagerty (1976-80). Jackson is married to the former Debbie Halle, a four-time All-America gymnast at Seattle Pacific from 1974-77.
JACKSON FINALIST FOR GAINES AWARD: WWU head coach Brad Jackson is one of 10 finalists for the 2012 Clarence "Big House" Gaines Division II Coach of the Year award. The winner will be announced March 30 at the CollegeInsider.com awards banquet at New Orleans, the site of the DI men's basketball NCAA Championship. Jackson already has been named NABC West District and GNAC Coach of the Year this season.
JACKSON MILESTONE VICTORIES:
No.1 - Nov. 23, 1985 - WWU 89, British Columbia 78 - Victoria, B.C. No. 100 - Jan. 16, 1990 - WWU 73, Seattle U. 63 - Seattle, WA No. 200 - Feb. 16, 1995 - WWU 71, Puget Sound 63 - Tacoma, WA No. 276 - Jan. 4, 2001 - WWU 81, Chaminade 77 - Honolulu, HI (becomes school's all-time victory leader in men's basketball) No. 300 - Nov. 23, 2001 - WWU 98, Southern Colorado 70 - Bellingham No. 400 - Nov. 18, 2006 - WWU 67, Cal State L.A. 66 - Seattle, WA No. 412 - Nov. 23, 2007 - WWU 85, Northwest 69 - Bellingham (becomes school's all-time win leader for all sports) No. 450 - Nov. 21, 2009 - WWU 87, Dominican CA 72 - Seattle, WA No. 500 - Jan. 5, 2012 - WWU 76, Saint Martin's 71 - Bellingham
JACKSON'S 500TH: The Vikings' win over Saint Martin's on Jan. 5 was the 500th career victory for WWU coach Brad Jackson (current total 517), who became just the fifth four-year college hoop mentor in the state of Washington to reach that milestone and the 40th in NCAA II men's history. The previous four coaches in the state to accumulate 500 wins were Marv Harshman (Pacific Lutheran, Washington State, Washington) 637, Dean Nicholson (Central Washington) 620, Hec Edmundson (Washington) 508 and Leo Nicholson (Central Washington) 505.
500-WIN FOUR-YEAR COLLEGIATE COACHES IN STATE OF WASHINGTON:
637 - Marv Harshman (Pacific Lutheran, Washington State, Washington) 620 - Dean Nicholson (Central Washington) 517 - Brad Jackson (Western Washington) 508 - Hec Edmundson (Washington) 505 - Leo Nicholson (Central Washington)
2010-11 RECAP: WWU returns four starters from last year's squad that finished 16-11 and reached the first round of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament. Allen earned second-team GNAC all-star honors, averaging 14.3 points a game, including 43 in a victory over Simon Fraser, the second highest point total ever by a WWU player and a school record at Carver Gym. The Washington State transfer also led WWU in assists (4.1) and steals (1.7), and shot 91.5 percent at the free-throw line (65-of-71), which ranked second nationally. Blanche received honorable mention all-GNAC recognition, averaging 14.3 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 62.8 percent from the field to rank 14th nationally.
GNAC COACHES TAB VIKINGS THIRD: WWU was picked to finish third in the preseason GNAC coaches poll. Alaska Anchorage, which won its only GNAC title in 2008 when it advanced to the NCAA II national semifinals, edged Seattle Pacific, 95-94. Both the Seawolves and Falcons, who won GNAC titles in 2002, 2006, 2007 and 2010 and have qualified for the NCAA II post-season in seven consecutive seasons, each received four first-place votes. Three-time conference champion WWU (2002, 2005, 2009) got a pair of first-place votes and placed third. Defending champion Central Washington was fourth.
RADIO BROADCASTS Selected WWU games are being broadcast this season on KBAI Radio (930 AM - www.930kbai.com) with Doug Lange handling the play-by-play and Mark Scholten providing the color commentary. They also can be heard on the internet at www.wwuvikings.com.
ON THE WEB: All Viking home games are being video streamed live and are available free at http://wwu.nmtvsports.com. For up-to-date statistics, box scores of every game, records, stories, etc., see the WWU Athletics web page at www.wwuvikings.com. Up-to-date league standings and statistics can be found on the Great Northwest Athletic Conference web page at www.pennatlantic.com.
PROBABLE WESTERN STARTERS & TOP RESERVES:
G John Allen, 6-0, *Jr., Brier/Mountlake Terrace/Washington State G Richard Woodworth, 6-3, *So., Bellevue/Newport C Chris Mitchell, 6-8, **Jr., Everson/Nooksack Valley F Zach Henifin, 6-5, *Sr., Bellingham/Whatcom CC F Rory Blanche, 6-6, ***Sr., Ashland, OR/Ashland
CARVER GYM CELEBRATES 50TH ANNIVERSARY: Dedicated on March 30, 1962, WWU's Sam Carver Gymnasium is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season. It is named for Sanford E. Carver, a NAIA Hall of Famer who was Western's first director of athletics and the chairman of the physical education department from 1914-55. Carver Gym was an addition to the existing physical education facility. It added 54,233 square feet of floor space at a cost of $1.04 million. The most significant addition was the present main gymnasium. The facility opened in time for the 1961-62 basketball season, although it wasn't named for Carver until the dedication ceremony the following spring. Dr. James L. Jarrett, then Western's president, and Dr. E.V. Pullias, a professor at the University of Southern California, were the main speakers at the gathering. Basketball has been one of the primary activities at Carver Gym. The Seattle Pacific men were Western's opponent in the first game played on the new floor on Dec. 6, 1961. The Viking men have racked up an impressive record during their time in the building, going 501-157 (76.1 percent) in 50 years.
RECENT GAME SUMMARIES:
March 9 - WWU 79, Grand Canyon 73 - West Region (First Round) at Bellingham
John Allen scored 15 of his game-high 24 points in the first half as WWU built a 25-point lead, but the Vikings had to hold off a furious comeback from Grand Canyon in the second half before earning a 79-73 win in the first round of the West Regional at Carver Gym. WWU jumped to a 14-1 lead in the first 3:44 of the game. After Rory Blanche hit a jumper to start the game, Allen scored the Vikings' next seven points. GCU finally got on the board with a free throw, but Blanche hit a jumper and Chris Mitchell nailed a three-pointer to stretch the lead to 13 points. Later in the half, WWU had runs of 7-0 to go ahead 25-9 and 6-0 to stretch its lead to 31-11. The Vikings eventually went on top by 25 at 42-17 with four minutes left in the first half and were up by 21 at halftime, 48-27. But, GCU, which ended its season at 19-8, chipped away in the second half cutting the deficit to 12 points on four different occasions. WWU rebuilt its lead to 18 at 63-45 on a layup by Allen with 12:41 remaining and maintained a double-digit advantage until a three-pointer by reserve Blake Davis at 5:54 and a layup by forward Jerome Garrison pulled the Antelopes within nine, 70-61, with 5:19 remaining. The Antelopes climbed to within six at 71-65 with 3:46 left on two free throws by Blake and again at 73-67 on a jumper by Justin Wesolowski with 3:05 to go. But Blanche's jumper with 1:47 left re-established the lead at eight. Two baskets by Braylon Pickrel cut the Vikings' lead to four with 44 seconds remaining, but WWU finally put the game away at the foul line as Cameron Severson made two with 28 seconds left and Blanche converted two more with 16 seconds remaining to open the lead back to eight. Allen made six of seven shots in the opening period, finishing the contest with 10 field goals in 16 attempts. Blanche was also in double figures with 16 points, making all six of his field goal attempts. GCU was led by Pickrel with 18 points, including 16 in the second half. Davis came off the bench to add 11, nine after the intermission. The Antelopes, who had won nine straight, made 19 of 29 second-half shots (65.5 percent) to key their comeback and also benefited from 12-of-26 free throw shooting by WWU, which converted just seven of 18 in the second half. For the game, WWU shot 52.5 percent (31-of-59) after firing at a 59.4 percent clip (19-of-32) in the opening 20 minutes. GCU rebounded from a 34.8 percent first half (8-of-23) to finish the game at 51.9 percentage (27-of-52).
March 10 - WWU 74, Chico State 65 - West Region (Semifinal) at Bellingham
Rory Blanche and Zach Henifin combined for 25 of their 34 points in the second half to lead top-seeded WWU to a 74-65 win over fifth-seed Chico State in a semifinal of the West Regional Tournament at Carver Gym. Blanche scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half and Henifin had 10 of his 17 after the intermission. WWU also got 13 points from John Allen and 11 from Richard Woodworth. Forward Sean Park led Chico State, which finished at 25-8, with 13 points and a game-high five assists, while Amir Carraway had 11 points and Jason Conrad scored 10. The Vikings trailed 35-30 early in the second half, but took the lead for good on a tip-in by Henifin, the first of six consecutive Viking points by the WWU forward. Henifin added a jumper to put his team ahead 45-42, and made two free throws a few moments later for a 47-44 lead. WWU still led by just three with nine minutes left, 54-51, but the Vikings scored seven consecutive points getting a jumper from Woodworth, a three-pointer from Rico Wilkins and a jumper from Paul Jones to go ahead by 10, 61-51, with 6:37 left. Chico State climbed back to within five points, 63-58, on a three-pointer by Damario Sims with 3:43 remaining, but Allen hit a three-pointer to re-establish an eight-point lead just inside the two-minute mark. The Wildcats cut that deficit to six on two free throws by Park with 1:42 remaining, but two free throws by Woodworth and a spectacular tip-in by Henifin with 58 seconds left gave WWU a double-digit lead effectively sealing the victory. WWU shot 50 percent from the floor (29-of-58), while holding Chico State to a 35.8 percentage (19-of-53) including just 33.3 percent (9-of-27) in the second half, while also earning a draw on the backboards (36-36) and having seven fewer turnovers (8-15). The win was the 500th for WWU in its 50 years at Carver Gym.
March 12 - WWU 56, Seattle Pacific 50 - West Region (Final) at Bellingham
John Allen scored a game-high 16 points and was named regional tournament MVP as WWU defeated Seattle Pacific, 56-50, in the NCAA II West Regional championship game at Carver Gym. Seattle Pacific, the No.3 seed in the regional, completed its season 23-8. Center Andy Poling had 15 points for the Falcons, and forward Jobi Wall added 12 points and 10 rebounds. WWU held a 30-23 lead at halftime, but SPU opened the second half with a 9-2 run to tie the game at 32-32 just 2:07 into the period. However, fastbreak layins by Blanche and Allen triggered a 14-4 run, and the Vikings opened up a 46-36 lead with 10:23 left, the biggest margin of the game. The Falcons rallied again with seven straight points, pulling to within three, 46-43, with 7:23 left, but never got that close again. Zach Henifin had 11 points and Rory Blanche added 10 for the Vikings. The Falcons shot a season-low 28.1 percent (16-of-57) from the field, but stayed close by having a 45-32 advantage in rebounds and making 14-of-20 free throws (70.0 percent). Allen was joined on the all-tournament team by Blanche, Henifin, Poling and SPU'S Jake Anderson, who had eight points and nine rebounds.
March 22 - WWU 64, Midwestern State TX 63 - Elite Eight Quarterfinals at Northern Heights, Ky
WWU overcame going scoreless for more than six minutes to start the game and rallied for a 64-63 victory over Midwestern State in a quarterfinal round game of the NCAA II Elite Eight at The Bank of Kentucky Center on the campus of host Northern Kentucky. Rory Blanche led WWU with 15 points, 13 of them in the second half. Midwestern State, located in Wichita Falls, Texas, ranked No.5 in the final national poll, had a seven-game winning streak snapped and concluded its season 29-4. The Mustangs, who were making their third consecutive Elite Eight appearance, were led by forward David Terrell, who came off the bench to score a game-high 21 points. A layup by Paul Jones with 7:47 left put the Vikings in front to stay, but WWU never led by more than five points. The Vikings entered the final minute with a 64-60 edge, but a Michael Loyd three-pointer with 41 seconds left cut the margin to one. WWU was able to grab a pair of offensive rebounds, but missed three free throws in the final nine seconds, the last two by Jones with 4.2 seconds left. MSU's Kevin Grayer grabbed the rebound and dribbled the length of the floor, but did not get a shot off before time expired. Jones came off the bench to contribute 12 points and a team-high nine rebounds for the Vikings. John Allen had 14 points, and Richard Woodworth added 13 points and eight rebounds. The Vikings got off to a terrible start, turning the ball over on four of their first six possessions and falling behind 16-2 after 10 minutes. WWU's only points in the opening 10 minutes came on a driving layin by Allen at the 13:49 mark. The WWU defense then stiffened, holding MSU scoreless for more than four minutes, and the Vikings pulled within four, 16-12, on an Allen jumper that capped a 10-0 run with 5:54 remaining in the half. WWU eventually tied the game at 25-25 on an Allen basket, and went into the half tied at 27-27 as Woodworth, who had seven points in the last 4:19 of the period, scored on a leaping putback. Despite hitting just one of its first 10 shots from the field, WWU ended up outshooting MSU from the field, hitting 45.3 percent (24-of-53) to just 40.7 (24-of-59).
March 22 - WWU 71, Stonehill MS 66 - Elite Eight Semifinals at Northern Heights, Ky.
WWU opened up a 20-point lead then survived a late rally to defeat Stonehill, 71-66, in a semifinal game of the NCAAII Elite Eight at The Bank of Kentucky Center on the campus of host Northern Kentucky University. Rory Blanche led WWU with 16 points on 7-of-10 field goal shooting. Stonehill had a 10-game winning streak snapped and completed its season 25-9. Guard Brian Hamor led the Skyhawks with a game-high 22 points, and forward Patrick Lee added 14. Western led, 47-27, with a little over 13 minutes to play, but Stonehill went on a 19-5 run to close the margin to six, 52-46, with 5:32 to left. The lead was never more than nine after that, and eventually shrank to four three times in the last 1:23, the final one at 65-61on two free throws by Hamor with 38 seconds left. But Western was able to convert from the foul line, knocking down 8-of-10 free throws in the final 46 seconds. John Allen, who finished with 13 points, was 4-of-4 in that stretch. Richard Woodworth had 12 points and nine rebounds for the Vikings, and Zach Henifin had 10 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, helping Western establish a 39-29 advantage on the boards. Stonehill opened up an 11-4 lead less than six minutes into the game, but the Vikings took control of the contest by holding the Skyhawks scoreless for more than six minutes, running off 16 consecutive points to take a 20-11 lead with 8:27 left in the first half. Six different WWU players scored in the charge, which helped the Vikings hold a 32-22 lead at halftime. WWU held the Skyhawks to 40.4 percent (23-of-57) field goal shooting, including just 30.8 percent (8-of-26) in the first half.
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