KANSAS CITY, Mo. - (Box Score) LSU-Shreveport upset No. 9 Evangel, 77-70, to advance to the quarterfinals of the 2013 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship. The Pilots will face the winner of No. 1 seed Columbia (Mo.) and Hope International (Calif.) tomorrow at 6 p.m. CDT. The 76th annual event is held at Municipal Auditorium.
LSU-Shreveport will make its second-consecutive appearance in the quarterfinals, after securing its second win in the second round by defeating Evangel. Evangel, who only gave up 65 points in the regular season, 18th best in the nation, allowed 77 points to the highest scoring offense in NAIA Division 1.
"It's a special win for our program," said LSU-Shreveport head coach Kyle Blankenship. "Back-to-back quarterfinal appearances, that says a lot about LSU-Shreveport basketball. We've got guys with character, guys with heart, guys that want to win more than anything else. They'll sacrifice personal statistics for that. I couldn't be more proud of them."
LSU-Shreveport and Evangel locked into a close game for the first seven minutes of the contest. A pair of free throws by Stephen Cotton trimmed LSU-Shreveport's lead to four, 14-10. After that the Pilots would open up their lead by going on an 11-4 run to open up a 25-14 lead. Evangel did not go away quietly, as the Crusaders continued to battle.
However, after Evangel got as close as eight points, LSU-Shreveport would extend its lead back into double figures. Evangel continued to battle back, cutting the Pilots lead down to nine, 39-30, with 1:23 left in the first half. LSU-Shreveport extended its lead back to 10 points, after a pair of free throws by Mark Politte. LSU-Shreveport took a 41-31 lead into halftime.
LSU-Shreveport continued to hold a 10-point lead during the first seven minutes of the second half. After the Crusaders Korry Tillery grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back, Evangel was down three, 45-42, with 13:42 to play.
Three minutes and 42 seconds later the Crusaders came all the way back, tying the game at 53. With the game tied at 57, the Pilots answered with an 11-2 run. After the run LSU-Shreveport did not look back and held the lead the rest of the way as they defeated Evangel 77-70.
"This is a really close-knit group," said Evangel head coach Steve Jenkins of his team. "Three of our seniors are four-year players, and they are the first group we've had get to four national tournaments. They are disappointed, but when we get further away from the sting of this loss, they will have fond memories of this season and of each other
LSU-Shreveport was led by Brandon Davis's game-high 23 points and game-high 17 rebounds, for his 17th double-double of the season. Rodney Milum followed with 19 points for the Pilots.
Evangel ends its season at 26-7 and was led in scoring by Stephen Cotton's 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Victor Agbasi followed with 13 points.
Evangel (Mo.) -
- Fell down by as much as 13 in the first half (3:23) and trailed 41-31 at the half.
- Crusaders fall to 0-3 all-time in the championship second round
- Zack Kleine, the team's leading scorer (12.5 ppg) and an All-Heart of America Athletic Conference First Team performer, was held scoreless in the first half due to three fouls. His first made basket came at the 14:48 mark of the second half. He finished with six.
- Evangel finds ways to get to the charity stripe. The Crusaders have attempted at least 25 foul shots in five of their last six games. Tonight, they ended 17-of-25 (.680).
- With the loss, the Heart of America Athletic Conference drops to 4-1 during this year's championship
- Evangel has never advanced to the quarterfinals in Kansas City. But, the Crusaders have tasted success in the NAIA Division II national championship in 2002. That year, the Crusaders won the trophy.
- LSU-Shreveport becomes just the second opponent in the last five games to hit for 70-plus points against Evangel.
- Evangel (26-7) ends the year with its eighth-consecutive 20-win season.
- LSU-Shreveport (La.) earned their third consecutive first round win with a 91-87 win over Pikeville (Ky.).
- The Pilots move to 7-9 overall in tournament play, and 2-3 in second round games.
- LSU-Shreveport (La.) makes its ninth consecutive appearance in the NAIA National Championship after earning an at-large bid. The Pilots finished the regular season with a 24-6 overall mark and despite posting an 18-4 record in the Red River Athletic Conference, only claimed a second-place tie in the league.
- The Pilots return to the quarterfinals after notching their first ever second-round win in 2012, knocking off Southern Poly (Ga.) by an 84-71 margin. LSU-Shreveport fell 84-65 to eventual champions Concordia (Calif.) in the quarterfinals.
- Rodney Milum is the second-leading scorer in the tournament with 49 points over two games. Brandon Davis is fifth with 44 points.
- Brandon Davis grabbed his 17th double-double of the season, with 20 points and 17 rebounds. It's the 20th double-double of the 2013 NAIA Tournament.
- Kyle Blankenship assumed the reins of the Pilot program this season after finishing his collegiate playing career at LSU-Shreveport, part of the 2005-06 Pilot squad.
- As a coach, Kyle Blankenship has never seen a team finish with fewer than 20 wins. In three years as an assistant at LSUS (2006-07 - 2008-09), one year as an assistant at Lamar State College-Port Arthur (2009-10) and two years as an assistant at Rogers State (2010-11 - 2011-12), followed by his current stint as head coach for the Pilots.
- Since the reinstatement of the men's basketball program at LSU-Shreveport in the 2003-04 season, the team has not finished a season with fewer than 20 wins and has only lost double-digit games twice, dropping 12 games in his debut season and again on the 2008-09 campaign.
- The Pilots are the top-ranked offense in the NAIA, averaging nearly 92.5 pts/gm coming into the tournament, and have crested the century mark seven times on the 2012-13 campaign. They have never been held below 60 points and have only failed to hit 70 in two contests.