By Matt Bos, NAIA Media Coordinator
POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. - (Box Score)— Devin Harris scored a game-high 28 points in leading Oklahoma Wesleyan to a 76-72 win over No. 12 Morningside in the first round of the NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship. The 2014 event is being played at the Keeter Gymnasium on the campus of College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Mo.
Harris went 10-for-17 from the floor en route to a 28-point effort, the second highest scoring output of the championship so far. The senior guard scored the Eagles’ final six points, including a crucial three-pointer that put his team in front by five (73-68) with two minutes left to go.
Oklahoma Wesleyan overcame an early 13-point deficit (19-6), using the three-point shot to get back in it. Steven Cooks knocked down back-to-back three’s and Tyler Woods hit another to make it a four-point game (23-19). A basket by Morningside’s Kyle Nikkel put the lead back to six but an 18-4 OWU run, sparked by 10 points by Harris, put the Eagles up 39-31 just before the half. Morningside scored the final basket to put the score at 39-33 at the break.
OWU threatened to blow the game open early in the second, registering its largest lead (54-41) after a three-pointer by Josh Young. Morningside responded with a 16-5 run of its own and after consecutive three-pointers by Danny Rudeen and Andrew Christen, trailed by just two (59-57) at the nine-minute mark.
The teams traded baskets over the next few minutes until Morningside outscored OWU 6-0 and grabbed its final lead (68-67) after a basket by Kyle Nikkel at the three-minute mark. The Eagles went ahead for good on a three-pointer by Young and outscored Morningside 9-4 the rest of the way.
OWU shot 46% for the game and nearly had all five starters in double figures. Young scored all 16 of his points in the second half while Phillip Jahn (12) and Woods (10) were the other top scorers.
Morningside shot 45% for the game but struggled from the perimeter, going 7-for-30 (22%) from the three-point arc. Nikkel led the way with 20 points and seven boards before fouling out with two minutes left. Rudeen chipped in 17 for the Mustangs, who finish the season with a 25-9 record.
Oklahoma Wesleyan moves on with a 25-9 overall record and will play either No. 5 Indiana Wesleyan or Reinhardt (Ga.) in the second round on Friday, March 14 at noon.