By Eric Montgomery, NAIA Staff
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Box score) St. Gregory’s (Okla.) opened the second day of action at the2014 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championshipwith a 84-69 upset win over 15th-seeded Wiley (Texas), Thursday morningin Municipal Auditorium. The Cavaliers will meet the winner of No. 2 Pikeville (Ky.) and Lindenwood-Belleville (Ill.) in second round action on Friday, March 21 at 12:30 p.m. CDT
The Cavaliers jumped out to a nine-point lead in a back-and-forth first half thanks to an eight-point spurt near the midway point of the opening stanza. Marty Wilkerson hit consecutive three-point shots after a basket by Tilford Thornton to claim the biggest lead of the first half, 19-10.
Phillip Miller sparked an immediate response by Wiley, scoring four-straight points of six-unanswered points for the Wildcats. The teams traded the lead in the two minutes of the first half before Corey Wiley drew Wiley even for the fifth tie of the first half headed into intermission, 30-30.
Wiley scored six of the first nine points of the second half to take the early advantage, but St. Gregory’s would jump back in front for good and take control of the game. Thornton scored on two-straight possessions for the Cavailiers for a quick 7-0 run, then added two more field goals to stretch a six-point cushion to 52-42 with 12:51 remaining. Wiley got no closer than seven points the rest of the way.
“I think we were a little nervous coming out, but everyone knew what was at stake and we started playing our game and executing,” said St. Gregory’s senior forward Josiah Campbell. “We’ve got to stay locked in. We want to play a lot more games here.”
Wilkerson led the way for the Cavaliers with 20 points and six rebounds, contributing half of his team’s three-point connections on six attempts. Jaron Vierra chipped in with 17 points and seven rebounds, Thornton finished with 14 points and five rebounds, while Campbell added 11 points, 11 rebounds and four assists.
“We found out last year how you start the game is very important,” said William Carey head coach Steve Knight. “We learned from that experience last year and we came out ready.”
“I’m proud of my guys,” said Wiley head coach Andre S. Payne. “We played with the effort we play with all the time. It just wasn’t a good offensive night. The heart which we displayed on the floor is what we’ve done all year long.”
Wiley was held to 35.2 percent shooting in the game, including a 12 of 37 clip (.324) in the second half. The Wildcats were 13 of 17 at the charity stripe in the second half, but managed only two three-pointers on 11 tries. Wiley also committed nine turnovers after halftime and yielded 15 points off giveaways in the game.
Miller led all scorers with 26 points to go along with five rebounds for Wiley, while DeAndre Smith added 11 points and Rashad Harris posted 10 points and seven rebounds.
Wiley finishes its season with a record of 25-7.
St. Gregory’s– The Cavaliers picked up their first-ever win in the championship after losing their previous attempt in 2000 … SGU is the second unseeded team to win in the first round of the tournament through nine games … The victory gives the Sooner Athletic Conference a first round win for 24-straight tournaments dating back to the 1991 event … The 15-point margin of victory was the third-largest this season for the Cavaliers, who had an average margin of 2.8 points coming into the tournament.
Wiley – The Wildcats fell to 1-3 all-time in the national championship and have not won a game in the event since 1970 (W, 77-75 over Drury (Mo.)) … The loss was the worst of the season for Wiley with the previous high coming in a 13-point setback to Xavier (La.) on Nov. 14 … The Wildcats were held 10.1 percent below their average field goal percentage of 45.3 coming into the game … The loss snapped a six-game winning streak coming into the event.