A lockdown defensive effort from the opening tip to the final whistle led the No. 2-seeded Spring Arbor University men’s basketball team to a commanding 66-50 win over No. 3-seeded Marian University in the NAIA DII Men’s Basketball National Championship Semifinals on Monday night at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
After scoring 105 points during their quarterfinal win on Saturday, the Knights were quieted by a dominant Cougar defense and held to just 38 percent shooting and a season-low 50 points.
Spring Arbor will be making its first-ever appearance in the national title game when it takes on No. 2-seeded Oregon Tech on Tuesday night. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. ET and the game will streamed live on ESPN3.
FINAL SCORE: No. 2-seeded Spring Arbor 66, No. 3-seeded Marian 50
LOCATION: Sanford Pentagon | Sioux Falls, S.D.
RECORDS: Spring Arbor 29-7, Marian 28-8
HOW IT HAPPENED
- It was a slow start for the two Crossroads League rivals, who were both making their first appearances in the national semifinals. Spring Arbor and Marian combined to go just 2-for-10 from the field in the opening moments of the game.
- Trailing 7-4 at the 13:04 mark, the Cougars began to find their rhythm. Paul Marandet started a 13-0 as SAU grabbed a 17-7 lead with 7:45 remaining in the first half.
- Marian slowly fought its way back and closed the gap to one in the final minute of the period. But, a clutch jumper by Tom Hamilton in the closing seconds gave Spring Arbor a 25-22 advantage heading into halftime.
- The Cougars went on a 12-4 run early in the second stanza to put some space between themselves and the Knights.
- With its season on the line, Marian refused to go down without a fight. The Knights got within nine, 39-30, with 11 minutes to play, but Denver Cade halted the momentum with a dagger three. Cade’s triple ignited a 12-2 scoring spurt as SAU ballooned its lead to 19, 51-32.
- Marian was able to get within 10 in the final minutes, but solid free throw shooting from Brandon Durnell, Marandet and Hamilton helped Spring Arbor hold on.
- It was the third time this season that Spring Arbor defeated Marian after picking up two victories over the Knights during the regular season.
FOR THE COUGARS
- Durnell poured in a game-high 17 points while Hamilton finished with 15 on 6-for-8 shooting. Marandet added 10 points and five assists.
- Jeff Beckman recorded eight points and a game-high nine rebounds while also adding three blocks. Payton DeWildt chipped in eight points and three boards off the bench.
- After shooting 44 percent in the first half, Spring Arbor scorched the nets to the tune of 63 percent over the final 20 minutes, finishing the game at 53 percent (26-for-49). The Cougars were also 6-for-11 from the 3-point line and 8-for-11 from the charity stripe.
- Spring Arbor outscored Marian 34-26 in the paint, and the Cougars’ bench outscored MU’s 13-4.
FOR THE KNIGHTS
- TJ Henderson and Wes Stowers led Marian with 16 and 10 points, respectively.
- The Knights, who entered ranked top-3 in the nation in shooting, were limited to just 38 percent (21-for-55) from the field, including a 5-for-14 mark from long range.
Spring Arbor will face off against Oregon Tech (28-7) in the championship game on Tuesday, Mar. 12 starting at 7 p.m. ET. The game will be streamed live on ESPN3.