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Top-Seeded Cougars Outlast Bison, 88-81

March 19, 2014
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Box score) Cal State San Marcos advanced to the second round of the 2014 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship after securing an 88-81 win over Oklahoma Baptist on Wednesday afternoon. The Cougars will take on the winner of 16th-seeded Culver-Stockton (Mo.) and Arizona Christian on Friday, March 21 at 10:45 a.m.

De’End Parker led the way for the Cougars with 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while Malcolm Lemmons tallied 17 points, Bobby Macias contributed 14 points and five assists, and Adam Eakles chipped in with 11 points and seven rebounds.

“I’m glad we won the first game,” said Cal State San Marcos head coach Jim Saia. “I’m excited about being here, but we’re not finished yet. I’m just happy we got through the first one, and now we can get ready to compete in the second round.”

The top seed in the championship in just its second-ever appearance was in a tight contest through the opening half. Cal State San Marcos held a 40-37 lead at the half after shooting 47.1 percent from the field despite connecting on just three of its 16 three-point attempts (.188). Oklahoma Baptist trailed by as much as eight points in the opening 4:00, but answered with a 13-3 run before the Cougars reclaimed the advantage for the rest of the first half.

A basket by Hayden Darst opened the scoring in the second half for the Bison and cut the deficit to one, but that was as close as the 1966 and 2010 champions would come the rest of the way. The Cougars pushed the lead to 16 points at the 12:36 mark with back-to-back three-pointers by Zack Zaragoza providing the final touches to the surge.

Cal State San Marcos (31-1) forced 15 turnovers while committing a season-low seven giveaways in the contest. Both teams connected on nine three-point shots and grabbed 38 rebounds with the Cougars claiming a slim 15-14 margin in made free throws. Oklahoma Baptist was outscored, 26-5, in bench points.

“That was the best team we faced this year,and they deserve the No. 1 ranking,” said Oklahoma Baptist head coach Doug Tolin. “We didn’t handle the pressure very well; we missed free throws and they were hitting jump shots. They really got after us defensively, but we needed to do better at the free throw line.”

Aaron Abram posted game-high totals of 26 points and 11 rebounds for the Bison, while Cale Jackson delivered 23 points, four assists and three steals. Darst finished with 17 points and six rebounds, and Tyler Davis posted 10 points.

Oklahoma Baptist finishes its season with a record of 19-16.

Game notes:
Cal State San Marcos – The Cougars improved to 1-1 all-time in the championship after losing their tournament debut last season to MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.), 109-98 … CSUSM extended its current winning streak to 23 games, losing its only game of the season on Dec. 7 to Hope International (Calif.) … The top seed in the tournament has now won five-straight games in the first round with the last opening round loss by a No. 1-seeded team coming in 2009 when William Jewell (Mo.) defeated Rogers State (Okla.).

Oklahoma Baptist – The Bison dropped to 59-24 all-time in the national championship and lost in the first round for just the fourth time since 1963 … The loss snaps a six-game winning streak and prevents OBU from claiming 20 wins for the first time since 1991-92 … The 27 all-time appearances for the Bison are the second-most among teams in this year’s field and second-most all-time, trailing just Georgetown (Ky.) with 32 trips.