By Eric Montgomery, NAIA Staff
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Box score) MidAmerica Nazarene shot 60.7 percent from the field en route to a 96-71 win over No. 13-seeded LSU Shreveport (La.) Thursday evening in the 2014 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship in Municipal Auditorium. The Pioneers will face the winner of No. 4 Columbia (Mo.) and Belhaven (Miss.) on Friday at 8:00 p.m. CDT.
The Pioneers recorded nearly identical numbers in each 48-point half, shooting 18-of-30 (.600) in the first half before logging a 19-of-31 shooting mark (.613) in the second half. MNU also hit 10 free throws in each stanza and attempted four three-pointers on each side of intermission with both connections coming in the first half.
The statistics on the Pilots’ side of the stats sheet also stood out, but for the opposite reason. LSU Shreveport shot 25.0 percent from the field, connecting on 23-of-92 field goal attempts. The Pilots made 4-of-26 three-point shots (.154) and had as many offensive rebounds as made field goals.
The Pioneers claimed a double-digit lead for the first time at the 7:29 mark of the first half to go in front, 31-20. Conner Langrehr hit back-to-back three-pointers prior to a pair of free throws by Nate Launius for an 8-0 run over just 1:01. The duo also combined to score the final four points of the half to give MNU a 15-point lead at the break.
MNU (24-10) led by double digits for the entire second half, though LSU Shreveport closed to within 11 points (66-55) with 11:06 remaining. The Pioneers scored the next five points to end the comeback attempt and record their eighth-straight victory.
“It’s happened the last two years that the rest of the (conference) plays in front of us and we sure don’t want to be the one that drops the ball, as far as the (Heart of America Athletic Conference) goes,” said MNU head coach Rocky Lamar, who was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame on Tuesday evening. “I’m really thrilled with the way that we played the last eight games of the year.”
Luke Thomas led the Pioneers with 22 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, Langrehr tossed in 18 points, and Brandon Newton tallied 15 points and nine rebounds. David Clark also added 14 points and five rebounds, while Nick Syrie tallied eight points, six rebounds and nine assists.
Brandon Davis tallied 21 points, 10 rebounds and five steals for the Pilots, while Tevin Hall recorded 20 points, three rebounds and three steals. William Nelson also added 15 points and eight rebounds as he hit all 10 of his free throw attempts.
“I’m so proud of our guys for finding a way to overcome adversity and for being champions,” said LSU Shreveport head coach Kyle Blankenship. “We’re not going to let one night define our season. We’re the first team in school history to win the Red River Athletic Conference championship and for that I’m so proud of our guys.”
LSU Shreveport finishes its season with a record of 21-9.
MidAmerica Nazarene– The Pioneers improved to 6-3 all-time in the National Championship and have won three of four first round games … MNU has never lost in the second round, advancing to at least the quarterfinal round after its previous two first round victories … The Pioneers have shot at least 50 percent in each game of their current eight-game winning streak … Luke Thomas leads the NAIA with 27 double-doubles.
LSU Shreveport – The Pilots were making their 10th-straight tournament appearance and are now 8-10 all-time … LSU Shreveport had its streak of three-straight first round wins snapped with the loss … Brandon Davis trails just Luke Thomas in NAIA Division I after recording his 24th double-double of the season … The Pilots’ 15-point halftime deficit was its greatest of the season, eclipsing the previous high of 14 points against St. Thomas (Texas) on Feb. 7.