By Eric Montgomery, NAIA Staff
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Box score) No. 10 Freed-Hardeman used a strong shooting performance from the field to knock off Montana State Northern, 71-63, Thursday afternoon in the First Round of the2014 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championshipin Municipal Auditorium. The Lions will face the winner of No. 7 Talladega (Ala.) and Evangel (Mo.) on Friday, March 21 at 2:15 p.m.
Freed-Hardeman (28-5) scorched the nets in the first half, shooting 68.2 percent from the field. Though Montana State-Northern was limited to 43.3 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes, the Lights hit six three-point shots among the 13 made field goals and trailed by just one, 35-34, at the half.
The Lions came out of the break with the first six points of the second half to claim a seven-point advantage, but the Lights continued to answer and kept the deficit between two and six points for the rest of the half. Jesse Vaughn scored inside for the Lights with 33 seconds remaining, keeping MSU-N within three points, 66-63.
With the shot clock turned off, the Lights were unable to force a turnover and sent Kyle Teichmann of the Lions to the line, where he hit a pair of free throws. Gabe Finley raced down for a two-point attempt that missed the mark. Though he was able to secure the rebound, Corbin Pearson missed a three-pointer and Freed-Hardeman added three late free throws to secure the win.
"Our kids really played hard and deserved it,” said Freed-Hardeman head coach Jason Shelton. “They worked real hard all year to have an opportunity to play in this tournament and this is big because there's been a lot of guys over the past years, especially the last nine that I've been here, that have helped us to get here.”
Orlando Bass led all scorers with 24 points to go along with five rebounds for the Lions, while Damion Wooten added 13 points and four rebounds. Teichmann and Reginald Gilmore each contributed 10 points with Teichmann adding nine rebounds and four assists.
Montana State-Northern was held to 29.0 percent shooting in the second half (9-of-31) and connected on just 3 of-17 three-point attempts. The Lights committed only five turnovers and had 12 offensive rebounds.
“I thought we had a good game plan, and I thought we executed it well, but we didn’t shoot well,” said Montana State-Northern head coach Shawn Huse. “I’m very proud of our seniors and what they’ve done for us. To end their careers at the national tournament is a tremendous accomplishment.”
Nicholas Blount came off the bench to lead the Lights with 15 points, hitting four of five from three-point range, while Pearson recorded 14 points and 10 rebounds. Finley chipped in with 10 points and three rebounds.
Montana State-Northern finishes its season with a record of 23-7.
Freed-Hardeman– The Lions won their first-ever game at the National Championship in its fourth appearance as the newest member of the American Midwest Conference … Bass, the leading scorer for the Lions, recorded his 11th game of the season with at least 20 points … The Lions came into the game ranked #3 in NAIA Division I in field goal percentage (.503) … The No. 10 seed was the best for the team in its tournament history, besting its previous highest seed of No. 13.
Montana State-Northern – The Lights lost their fifth-straight first round game at the National Championship with its last opening round win coming against Houston Baptist (Texas) in 1998 … MSU-N lost to an American Midwest Conference foe for the second time in the last three years (Columbia, 2012) … The Lights matched their season-low with five turnovers.