KANSAS CITY, Mo. - (Box Score) No. 10 Oklahoma Baptist advanced to the second round of the 2013 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship, for the fifth time in the last six years, with an 83-73 victory over Arizona Christian. The Bison will face the winner of the No. 7 seed Cal State San Marcos/MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) game on Friday at 8 p.m. CDT. The 76th annual event is held at the Municipal Auditorium.
The Bison held a 50-38 halftime lead before the pesky Arizona Christian Firestorm started to come back to bring the game within eight points. The Firestorm struggled from behind the arc in its first national championship appearance, shooting 31 percent with 9-of-29, much lower than their 39 percent effort from behind the three-point line during the regular season.
"I thought we did a great job attacking inside-a much better job in the second half-of getting inside and not always scoring but getting to the free-throw line," said Oklahoma Baptist head coach Doug Tolin.
Oklahoma Baptist offense got off to a fast start. In the first 10 minutes of the game, the Bison were shooting 76 percent with 13-of-17 from the floor. In the first 10 minutes of the contest, Oklahoma Baptist held a 14-point lead, 32-18. The Bison continued to add to its lead in the first half and grew the lead to as many as 18, before Arizona Christian made a run right before half. The Firestorm closed the first half on a 6-0 run to pull within 12 points, 50-38, at halftime.
Arizona Christian's Charles King scored the first the points of the second half to bring the Firestorm back within nine points, at 50-41. However, the Bison went on an 11-4 run to push its lead back to 17 points with 14:45 left in the game. The Firestorm would not go away however, and continued to close the Oklahoma Baptist gap back to single digits. With 6:27 left in the game the Bison led, 70-62.
Oklahoma Baptist did not let Arizona Christian get closer than 10 points the rest of the way, finishing with an 83-73 victory.
"Having 17 turnovers in the first half is just too much to spot a team as good as Oklahoma Baptist," said Arizona Christian head coach Jeff Rutter. "We're excited for the future of our program, and we've made great strides this year. This is a team with great character and tough guys. Our goal is to be an elite team at the NAIA level."
The Bison were led by David Johnson and Clinton Houston, who scored 18 and 17 points respectively. The Bison shot 50 percent from the floor, 28-of-56 for the game. With this victory, the Bison improved its all-time record to 59-22, the most wins in national championship history,
Talib Uqdah led the Firestorm with 18 points. Jackson Helms led Arizona Christian with seven rebounds.
Arizona Christian Notes:
- This is the first national championship trip for the Firestorm
- With 20 wins, ACU won more games just twice in its history - the 1996-97 NCCAA Division II-A championship team went 21-8, and the 1985-86 team went 21-9 under Paul Westphal, former NBA player and coach, who coached the former Southwestern College, now called Arizona Christian, for one season.
- Talib Uqdah had a game-high 18 points and has notched 10-plus points in 10 of his 11 games. In his last outing, he netted a school-record 43 points with 8 three-pointers and 9 rebounds in the Golden State Athletic Conference championship game against Concordia (Calif.).
- Senior A.J. Koch stands with more than 1,200 career points - he had 10 tonight.
- The team ranked first in the Golden State Athletic Conference and second in the NAIA with a .752 free throw shooting clip. Tonight, they went 16-of-21 (.762).
- The 24 turnovers is a season-high - three more than the previous mark.
- With the loss, the Firestorm become the third newcomer in this year's field to lose in the first round.
Oklahoma Baptist Notes:
- No. 10 Oklahoma Baptist picked up an at-large bid to the NAIA National Championship after putting together a 24-7 overall record on the 2012-13 campaign. They dropped their Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament opener to Oklahoma City, after finishing runner up to John Brown University with a 12-4 regular season league mark.
- Oklahoma Baptist has scored 50 points in a half in six outings this season - all wins. Their season high is 63 (2nd) in a 113-64 win over NCAA Division III foe Dallas Christian.
- The Bison also hit exactly 50 percent from the floor (28-of-56) on the night.
- Oklahoma Baptist has a record total of eight appearances in the championship game, with wins in 1966 (88-59 over Georgia Southern) and 2010 (84-83 over Azusa Pacific).
- The Bison have the same overall record in championship appearances as the STATE of West Virginia.
- Senior Clinton Houston set a new career high with nine free-throw makes on 11 trips to the line.
- Oklahoma Baptist had a 20-point cushion on points in the paint.