By Eric Montgomery | NAIA Media Coordinator
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Box Score) Overall No. 1 seed LSU Alexandria (La.) used balanced scoring and hot second-half shooting to earn a 81-61 victory over No. 5-seeded Westmont (Calif.) in the second round of the 2017 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo. The Generals claim their first-ever Quarterfinal berth and now match up against the winner of No. 3 Pikeville (Ky.) and No. 2 Columbia (Mo.) on Saturday, March 18 at 5:30 p.m. CST.
LSU Alexandria, the only undefeated team remaining in the tournament on a 33-game winning streak, turned a three-point halftime lead into a double-digit advantage about seven minutes into the second half. A 9-0 spurt was the difference-maker for the Generals turning a 45-42 lead into a comfortable 54-42 margin with 12:20 remaining in the game.
“We’re excited as a program that we took another step this season in getting to the quarterfinals,” said LSU Alexandria Head Coach Larry Cordaro. “Hats off to the Generals that guarded a Westmont offense – that’s something you don’t see every day. We held them to the low sixties so that’s an awesome win for our program, especially since we pride ourselves on defense and know that championships are won on that side of the ball.
“On offense, our unselfish guards delivered the ball inside to the bigs down low, on time and let them work. When you can score 50-plus points in the paint, that’s a big key to success. Now we have to get our guys ready for another tough challenge tomorrow night, no matter who wins whether it’s Columbia or Pikeville.”
The first 20 minutes was a seesaw affair with three ties and three lead changes. Westmont converted six LSU Alexandria turnovers into eight points and Cory Blau and Gerald Karczewski each had a pair of three-pointers to highlight the Warriors. Karczewski’s two free throws at the 5:11 mark in the first half put Westmont up 26-20, its largest lead of the game.
Gilbert Talbot sparked a 13-2 LSU Alexandria run with a jumper, and three-and-a-half minutes later, the Generals seized back momentum at 33-28. Karczewski connected from deep seconds before the halftime buzzer to pull Westmont within a 35-33 margin.
Westmont shot just 39.3 percent (11-of-28), but made five three-pointers and held a 6-2 advantage at the line.
LSU Alexandria scored 10 of the first 16 points of the second half before a trey by Westmont’s Sean Harman had the Warriors trailing 45-42. However, the General defense held Westmont without a point for a five-minute stretch and LSU Alexandria seized control. Brandon Moss, who was one of five Generals in double-figures with 13 points, swished his shot and LSU Alexandria went on the 9-0 run.
From that point on, LSU Alexandria led by at least seven points and cruised to the victory.
Talbot posted a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds, Moss added 13, Jordan Williams and Brian Sylvester each finished with 12 and Chris Vickers reached 10 points.
Blau, who came into the game leading the Warriors with a 14.9 clip, had a team-high 16 points on 4-of-10 shooting. He went 5-for-5 from the free throw line. Karczewski (11 points) and Hayden Anderson (10) were the other Warriors in double-figures. As a team, Westmont finished 35.8 percent from the field and was out-rebounded 38-21.
“We had a very good first half and I thought we had them on the ropes,” said Westmont Head Coach John Moore.
“In the first part of the second half, when they scored six straight points, it took the wind out of our sails. We missed shots in that same sequence. We were a little too reliant on outside shots in the second half. I thought we were going to get some opportunities inside more in the second half, but we just didn’t have as many back cuts in the second half.”
Westmont, playing in its 20th all-time national championship, ends its season with a 25-8 record.
LSU Alexandria is making its third appearance all-time in the National Championship and its third-straight appearance…The Generals are in the quarterfinals for the first time after losing to Carroll (Mont.) in the second round in 2016 and to Cumberlands (Ky.) in the opening round of the 2015 tournament...LSU Alexandria is now 3-2 all-time in the national tournament...The Generals are the first team since Columbia (Mo.) in 2013 to enter the postseason with an undefeated record... The Generals are one of four Red River Athletic Conference teams in the tournament, along with LSU Shreveport, Langston (Okla.) and Wiley (Tex.)...Red River Athletic Conference teams are 4-2 in the 2017 national tournament...LSU Alexandria is 14-0 against teams that qualified this year… Brandon Moss has changed to completely different shoes at halftime of the Generals’ two tourney games.
In their 20th appearance at the national championship, the Warriors of Westmont (Calif.) drop to 11-9 all-time at the event … The Warriors were knocked out in the first-round of the championship last season to Talladega (Ala.) … Westmont ranks No. 3 in the NAIA in field goal percentage at 50.6 percent … In this contest, the Warriors were held to only 35.8 percent on 19-of-53 shooting … Senior Cory Blau finished his final campaign with 16 points to lead all scorers – he ranks No. 6 in the NAIA in 3-point field goal percentage at 48.0 percent as he went 3-of-8 tonight … The Warriors were the only Golden State Athletic Conference to advance into the second-round.