By Eric Montgomery | NAIA Media Coordinator
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Box Score) No. 1-seeded William Penn (Iowa) trailed by 18 points in the first half, but battled back to earn an 84-80 win over No. 6-seeded Langston (Okla.), Saturday afternoon in the quarterfinal round of the 2017 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship at Municipal Auditorium. The Statesmen advance to the semifinal round and will play the winner of Dalton State (Ga.) and Texas Wesleyan on Monday, March 20 at 8:00 p.m., CST.
Torren Jones posted his third double-double in as many games for William Penn, recording 22 points and 16 rebounds. Kevin Smith and Charles Knowles each tallied 15 points and combined for nine rebounds, four assists and four steals.
“I’m so proud of these guys and the adversity they fought through,” said William Penn head coach John Henry. “Our crowd was fantastic, and that’s why we went over to pay tribute to them after the game. They really stuck with us.”
William Penn (33-3) looked to be in danger of becoming the second-straight No. 1-seeded team to lose in the quarterfinal round, falling behind 32-14 at the 5:49 mark of the opening frame. The Statesmen were 3 of 15 (.200) from three-point range in the first half and shot just over 30 percent overall from the field, while the Lions were an efficient 12 of 23 (.522) and got to the free throw line for a 16 of 19 clip.
Foul trouble hampered the Statesmen in the first half, with Jones and Lionel Ellison each committing three and three others going to the break with two. Despite the foul count, William Penn clawed back to within nine points before halftime thanks to a three-pointer by Corbin Medley and a pair of jumpers by Knowles in the final 3:04.
The late momentum shift carried over into the second half and completely turned the game around for the Statesmen. Still facing a nine-point deficit with 15:10 remaining, William Penn embarked on a 19-3 run over 4:56 to claim a 61-55 lead. Smith did almost all of the damage himself, scoring 13-straight points and assisting on another bucket during the frenzy.
The early foul trouble reared its head against the Statesmen down the stretch, creating some anxious moments. Smith and Ellison each fouled out within 40 seconds of each other, removing the two primary ball handlers from the William Penn lineup. The Lions capitalized, cutting the deficit to four with 1:14 to play on a three-pointer by Terrell Jones. However, neither team was able to score in the final minute.
“The way that we went out was the way that we were this season,” said Langston head coach Stan Holt. “We played with fire, heart and determination. Our guys need to be proud of their season. They have nothing to be ashamed about. They’re a great group that plays with so much heart and grit and I just love every single one of those guys.”
Michael Harris tallied 20 points and four rebounds to lead the way for Langston, while Daryle Morgan Jr. chipped in with 17 points and six rebounds. Terrell Jones tallied 14 points and seven rebounds, and Jamal McDowell added 10 points. The Lions finished the game 33 of 40 at the free throw line, while William Penn converted all 11 of its attempts at the charity stripe.
Langston concluded its season with a record of 24-10.
William Penn – The Statesmen advanced to the first NAIA Division I semifinal in program history, but was part of the 2013 semifinal round in the NAIA Division II national championship … William Penn was held to 32 or fewer points in a half for just the fourth time this season … Torren Jones recorded his NAIA-leading 27th double-double of the season … William Penn was perfect from the free throw line for the second time this season … The Statesmen improved to 5-2 this season when trailing at the half … Smith’s four steals were a high for the season... William Penn went 11-for-11 from the charity stripe – the last time a team shot perfect from the foul line (minimum of five attempts) was former member Azusa Pacific (Calif.) against Mountain State (W.Va.) on March 22, 2008 (7-for-7).
Langston – The Lions were making their fifth appearance overall and second-straight in championship, moving to 2-5 all-time after today’s loss ...The Lions' opening-round victory Wednesday night over Biola (Calif.) was its first in national championship play following four straight opening-round losses... The Lions are one of four Red River Athletic Conference teams in this year’s field and one of two (along with LSU Alexandria) to advance to the quarterfinals ... Red River Athletic Conference teams are 4-3 in this year's tournament thus far...Langston had won 12 of the last 13 contests before today’s loss...The Lions finished the season 5-8 against national championship qualifiers...Langston's 40 free throw attempts and 33 makes are the most by a team in a single game in the 2017 national championship thus far.
General Notes: William Penn was ranked No. 2 in the final NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball Coaches’ Top 25 Poll, while Langston was ranked No. 21 … Torren Jones leads all players in the national championship thus far in points in a game (36), field goals in a game (13), total rebounds (48) and rebounds in a game (21) …With Langston’s loss, it marked the first time since 2013 a No. 6 seed has not advanced to the semifinals.