KANSAS CITY, Mo. - (Box Score) SAGU (Texas) held off a strong second-half run by Montana Western, 84-79, to advance to the semifinals of the 2013 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship. The Lions will face the winner of No. 2 seed Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) and MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.), Monday night at 6 p.m. CDT. The 76th annual event is held at Municipal Auditorium.
SAGU will make its first-ever appearance in the semifinals of the national championship.. And, SAGU is the first Red River Athletic Conference team to make the Fab Four since Texas Wesleyan in 2006. This is the farthest the Lions have ever made it in the national championship in its second appearance. SAGU held off a furious comeback by Montana Western; as the Bulldogs scored 67 points in the second half, to hold on to win by five points.
"Weird is normal," said SAGU head coach Donnie Bostwick. "That team (Montana Western) doesn't ever quit. I saw what they did in a few games in the past, and when they started knocking down those threes, I knew we would have work hard to finish them off. Their comeback was impressive."
SAGU started the first half on a 15-5 run that was keyed by the Lions Dominique Rambo, with seven points. SAGU's defensive effort was impressive as the Lions kept Montana Western's two buckets three minutes apart.
The poor shooting for Montana Western continued in the first half as the Bulldogs were shooting 15 percent, 3-of-27 in the first 13 minutes of the contest. SAGU led Montana Western, 23-8, with seven minutes to go before halftime.
Montana Western's shooting did not improve in the last seven minutes of the game, as SAGU went on an 11-4 run to close out the half. SAGU held a 24- point lead with 1:39 left, the largest lead for the Lions in the first half. The Lions held the Bulldogs to 4-of-27, 14.8 percent from the floor. SAGU held a 34-12 lead at intermission.
With 10 minutes to go in the game the Lions led by 20, 55-35. Then Montana Western's offense clicked into gear. In the next five minutes of the contest, Bulldogs went on a 22-7 run.
During this five minute stretch for Montana Western, the Bulldogs trimmed SAGU's lead down to five points, 62-57. Leading the Bulldogs in this stretch were Kris Collins and Vince Turk, with nine and seven points, respectfully.
The Bulldogs continued to battle for the remainder of the game. SAGU extended its five-point lead back to double-digits with two minutes left in the game. The Bulldogs fought back and were within five points, 76-71, 50 seconds to go in the game. The Lions were a perfect 8-for-8 from the charity stripe in the final minute to secure an 84-79 victory.
"I am proud of our effort," said Montana Western head coach Steve Keller. "We are a young team, and we didn't know what to expect when we came to Kansas City. We didn't' quit and that says a lot about our character."
Nathaniel Ward scored a game-high 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the floor, and he collected 15 rebounds for his third double-double of the season. Dominique Rambo followed with 18 points.
Kris Collins came off the bench to lead Montana Western with 21 points, 7-of-12 from behind the arc. Vince Turk followed with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the floor. After shooting 14.8 percent in the first half, Montana Western shot 51 percent in the second half. After shooting 1-of-12 from behind the arc in the first half, the Bulldogs made 12-of-22 threes in the second half.
- First appearance in the national quarterfinals. Advanced with wins over Philander Smith (Ark.), 99-94 (OT) and No. 3 Lee (Tenn.), 83-73
- Becomes the first Red River Athletic Conference school to advance to semifinals since Texas Wesleyan won the title in 2006.
- Held 34-12 halftime lead after limiting Montana Western to 15 percent shooting and out-rebounding the Bulldogs 34-18.
- Nathaniel Duce Ward, who entered with five combined points in the two previous championship games, finished with a game-high 22 points. His 15 rebounds is tied for the fifth-highest amount this championship.
- Head coach Donnie Bostwick, who is in his second season, was at NAIA Division II Oklahoma Wesleyan for four seasons where he compiled a 120-20 record. Part of that run was a 2009 national championship.
- First appearance in the national quarterfinals. Advanced with wins over Science & Arts (Okla.), 62-58, and Martin Methodist (Tenn.), 72-68
- As a team, made a 2013 championship tournament high 13 3-pointers. The 34 attempts is tied for second-most.
- The Bulldogs scored 67 second-half points. Kris Collins, who nailed 7-of-12 from 3-point range, netted all his 21 points in the final 20 minutes. His seven treys is tied for most for an individual in this year's event.
- Went on 19-4 run to bring the score to within five at 62-57 with 4:33 remaining - that was the closest the Bulldogs would get.
- Were out-rebounded 50-39 overall.