Kansas City, Mo. - (Box Score) No. 6 SAGU (Texas) fought off an upset bid by Science and Arts (Okla.) in the opening game of the 2013 Buffalo-Funds NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship and claimed a 62-58 victory. The Lions will advance to the second round and play the winner of No. 11 Westmont (Calif.)/Martin Methodist (Tenn.) on Friday at 9 a.m. CDT. The event is held at Municipal Auditorium.
Mike Nwelue led all scorers with 19 points for SAGU (30-4), hitting 8-of-12 shots from the field to go along with five rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals. Dominique Rambo chipped in with 12 points, six assists and seven steals, while Tyler Guidry came off the bench to tally 10 points and four rebounds for SAGU.
"It was a big win," said SAGU head coach Donnie Bostwick. "We didn't have anyone who played much better than good, but as a team we played great."
The Lions came from behind to earn their first-ever trip to the second round, trailing by five points at halftime after shooting 31.0 percent (9-for-29) in the opening half. The deficit doubled to 10 points within the first five minutes of the second half before SAGU started its comeback.
SAGU used a 10-0 run over 2:59 to tie the game after USAO had taken the largest lead of the game. The Drovers pushed the lead back to five points with 8:40 remaining after a three-pointer by Zacharias Lewis, but the Lions again battled back and the teams were tied at 55-55 after a pair of free throws at the 5:02 mark.
Emmanuel Adoyi scored with 3:04 to play after a steal by Jonathan Walter, then Rambo converted a steal into a transition bucket for a four-point lead with 58 seconds remaining. Shavon Scott cut the Drovers' deficit to one on a three-pointer with 29 second s left, but Adoyi added two free throws with 15 seconds to play and forced Scott into a turnover on the final USAO possession.
"I'm proud of the way we played," said USAO head coach Brisco McPherson. "Defensively, we were great. We really competed on the defensive end. We had good shots. We just gave them way too many opportunities with turnovers."
SAGU collected 17 steals on the 27 forced turnovers, more than 10 above their season average in each category. The Drovers held the Lions to a 2-for-23 clip (.087) from three-point range and posted a 42-35 rebounding advantage, but SAGU hit 13-of-17 free throws in the second half to finish off the comeback.
Jahseth Lloyd finished with 11 points and eight rebounds for USAO while Scott recorded 10 points. Kenneth Durham and Lewis also chipped in nine points each with Durham pulling down nine rebounds.
Science and Arts ends its season at 17-10.
Science and Arts - This marks the sixth-ever appearance for the Drovers in the Division I Men's National Championship ... USAO is now 10-5 all-time in tournament play, winning the national championship in 2002 ... The Drovers went 6-2 against teams from the state of Texas this season.
SAGU - The Lions lost to Rogers State, 84-64, in their previous trip to the Division I Men's National Championship in 2006 ... SAGU will be joining the Sooner Athletic Conference next season and will face USAO in conference play starting in 2013-14 ... The Lions matched their season-low with two three-point shots made, matching the total against Our Lady of the Lake (Texas) on Jan. 10.