For the first time in program history, the Spring Arbor University men’s basketball team has advanced to the semifinal round of the NAIA DII Men’s Basketball National Championship after defeating No. 4-seeded Indiana University East 89-77 on Saturday at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
No. 2-seeded Spring Arbor closed the first half on an 11-4 run to take a 45-35 lead into halftime, and maintained a double-digit cushion throughout the entire second half.
It was the third straight game the Cougars shot at least 60 percent from the field, and are now shooting a tournament-best 63 percent through the first three rounds.
SAU will meet the winner of the No. 3-seeded Marian (Ind.) and No. 5-seeded Briar Cliff (Iowa) game in the national semifinals on Monday, Mar. 11 at 9 p.m. ET.
FINAL SCORE: No. 2-seed Spring Arbor 89, No. 4-seed Indiana East 77
LOCATION: Sanford Pentagon | Sioux Falls, S.D.
RECORDS: Spring Arbor 28-7, Indiana East 26-9
HOW IT HAPPENED
· SAU became the first team to punch its ticket to the semifinal round on Saturday.
· It was a back-and-forth first 12 minutes, seeing eight ties and three lead changes. However, the Cougars began to open things up over the final five minutes of the stanza. With his third 3-pointer of the half, Luke Barber kick-started an 11-4 run to put SAU on top 45-35 at the break.
· SAU scored the first seven points of the second half to increase its lead to 17, 52-35, at the 16:09 mark.
· The lead ballooned to 20, 66-46 moments later after Brandon Durnell sank a deep three as the shot clock expired and Payton DeWildt followed with an easy lay-in.
· Indiana East closed the gap to 11 in the final two minutes, but free throws from Tom Hamilton would help seal the victory.
FOR THE COUGARS
· Marandet nearly recorded a triple-double with 20 points, eight assists and eight rebounds.
· Four other Cougars also reached double figures. Durnell finished with 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting while Hamilton tallied 14 points to go along with five assists and four boards. Jeff Beckman notched 13 points and eight rebounds and Barber chipped in 11 points.
· Spring Arbor University, the tournament’s hottest shooting team, shot 60 percent (36-for-60) on the afternoon, marking the third straight game SAU has shot at least 60 percent. Through the first three rounds, the Cougars are shooting 63 percent – more than 11 percentage points better than the next team.
· SAU also shot 53 percent (9-for-17) from behind the 3-point line. Over the first three games of the tournament, the Cougars are shooting at a 54 percent clip from long range.
· The Cougars outscored IU East 50-40 in the paint.
FOR THE RED WOLVES
· Bishop Smith paced Indiana East with 21 points followed by Kendall Rollins with 17.
· The Red Wolves hit 44 percent (30-for-68) of their shots and were 7-for-22 from the 3-point line.
SAU will meet either Marian (Ind.) (27-7) or Briar Cliff (Iowa) (22-8) in the semifinals on Monday, Mar. 11, at 9 p.m. ET. The winner moves on to play in the national championship game on Tuesday, Mar. 12. The title game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. ET and will air live on ESPN3.