By Eric Montgomery | NAIA Media Coordinator
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Box Score) No. 3-seeded Texas Wesleyan built a 12-point second half lead that proved to be enough en route to a 82-73 triumph over No. 1-seeded Dalton State (Ga.), Saturday evening in the quarterfinal round of the 2017 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship at Municipal Auditorium. The Rams advance to the semifinal round and will play No. 1-seed William Penn (Iowa), a 84-80 winner over Langston (Okla.), on Monday, March 20 at 8:00 p.m., CST.
Dion Rogers led five Texas Wesleyan players in double figures with 22 points and eight rebounds, while Najeal Young and Ryan Harris each added 19 points. Young pulled down a team-high nine rebounds, and Harris tallied five rebounds and five steals. Naiel Smith and Trevon Jeffrey each added 10 points, with Smith dishing out eight assists.
“We don’t pass the eye test up here, but I can’t measure how tough they are, how willing they are to play for each other, and how much they want to be coached,” said Texas Wesleyan head coach Brennen Shingleton. “There’s not a selfish bone in this team and they are just not ready to go home.”
Texas Wesleyan (27-7) took advantage of 22 turnovers to tally 31 points off of those takeaways, leading to a number of the 38 points the Rams scored in the paint. The Rams also got out in transition and claimed a 17-10 advantage on the break to help shoot 47.5 percent (29 of 61) from the field.
The Rams led most of the first half, posting a six-point advantage at the 9:07 mark of the opening frame on a steal and bucket by Harris. The Roadrunners battled back and briefly claimed a two-point lead thanks to five-straight points by Isaiah Box and a bucket by Sayvon Wilson. However, the Rams answered with a trey from Rogers and claimed a six-point edge at the break.
Texas Wesleyan would sustain the lead the entire second half, pushing the advantage to a game-high 12 points at the 12:28 mark after a transition bucket by Jeffrey. Dalton State closed to within three with 5:09 to play thanks to three free throws by Reed Dungan, but Harris answered with an immediate three-pointer that helped regain the 12-point cushion that set the table for the victory.
“They were a better team than us tonight, and to give them credit, we were on their heels,” said Dalton State head coach Tony Ingle. “When we really needed a play, we’d turn it over. Some of it was self-inflicted. Some of it was our fault and some of it I want to give them credit. At the end of the day, we didn’t get beat by a bad team. They are going to end up as one of the top four ball clubs in the country.”
Box led the way for Dalton State with 20 points and eight assists, while Wilson finished with 18 points and nine rebounds. Dungan chipped in with 14 points and five rebounds, and Carnilious Simmons pulled down a game-high 11 boards.
Dalton State concluded its season with a record of 29-5.
Texas Wesleyan – The Rams improved to 16-13 all-time in 14 appearances at the national championship, advancing past the second round for the first time since the 2006 national championship season … Joins Life (Ga.) as one of two No. 3 seeds to advance to this season’s Fab Four … Naiel Smith added to his NAIA-leading total in assists, upping his ledger to 251 on the season … Najeal Young missed his 21st double-double by a single rebound.
Dalton State – The Roadrunners suffered their first-ever loss in the national championship, falling to 7-1 in two appearances … Isaiah Box collected six of his eight assists on baskets by Sayvon Wilson … The 22 turnovers committed by the Roadrunners was one off of the season high … Dalton State allowed 11 points above its season average … The Rams were one of four teams from the Southern States Athletic Conference to participate in the national championship (Loyola, Martin Methodist, William Carey), but was the only one to advance past the first round.
General Notes: Dalton State won the national championship in its only other appearance in 2015 … Texas Wesleyan won the 2006 national championship in its last Fab Four appearance … Dalton State was ranked No. 3 in the final NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball Coaches’ Top 25 Poll, while Texas Wesleyan shared the No. 10 position with Pikeville (Ky.) … MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) was the last No. 3 seed to reach the Fab Four, occurring in last season’s national championship.