By Chad Waller | NAIA Staff
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Box score) No. 4 seed Columbia (Mo.) is heading to its third-straight Second Round in as many years after an 81-57 win against Belhaven (Miss.) Thursday evening in the 2014 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship in Municipal Auditorium. The margin of victory was the second largest win in 28 championship games played by the Cougars.
The Cougars will battle MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) on Friday at 8 p.m. CDT. Friday's Second Round game is a rematch of the 2009 National Championship Semifinal in which Columbia won by a 60-56 score.
“Our guys were really intense, but relaxed and confident which helped," said Columbia head coach Bob Burchard. "I feel we set the tone for the game in the first ten minutes with our defensive presence.”
The first two minutes were indicative of the game's score. As Belhaven missed its first five shots from the field, Columbia rattled off a 6-0 spurt to open the game. The Cougars, who went 36-of-69 (.522) from the field, opened up a 49-24 halftime lead. Devin Griffin and Derrick Dilworth both had double-figure point totals at 14 and 10 points, respectively.
Chris Cofield's free throw about three minutes into the second half pulled the Blazers to within 51-30, but the comeback was short-lived. A 3-pointer by Tanner Sutton and jumper by Patric Massey put the Cougars back to a comfortable lead.
The Columbia advantage stretched to as much as 33 points at 74-41 after a bucket by Malik Ray at the 7:21 mark of the second half. From that point, the lead never shrunk under 24 points as the Cougars won their 15th-straight game on the year.
Jeremy Nolan was one of four Cougars in double-figures with 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Griffin and Dilworth each had 14 points, while Massey posted a double-double of 10 points, 10 rebounds. Chantel Stanciel finished with a game-high seven assists.
Curt Hall tallied a team-best 15 points for the Blazers. Deon Bedford chipped in 14 points and six rebounds.
Belhaven ends its season at 18-15.
Columbia – The Cougars win a First Round game for the third straight year and improved to 11-17 all-time in the championship… Columbia has won 30 or more games in back-to-back seasons...Columbia extended its current winning streak to 15 games…Columbia improved to 15-0 when holding opponents to 60 points or less this year...The America Midwest Conference improves to 2-0 in the First Round this year -- Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.)...Devin Griffin's 14 points is a championship career high in his seventh career game - he has now averaged 9.1 points in seven championship games.
Belhaven - The Blazers dropped their fourth straight game in the championship and fell to 1-4 overall...The 24-point loss is the largest margin of defeat this season...Jordan Bedford failed to score in double figures for the first time in five games.