by Matt Bos, NAIA Media Coordinator
Point Lookout, Mo. – The top two overall seeds, No.1 (overall 1) Union (Ky.) and No.1 (overall 2) Cornerstone (Mich.), will play for the coveted prize, the 2017 NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship tonight for a 6:02pm tip. The game will be aired live on ESPN3.
Both teams come into Tuesday night with 34-3 overall records, most wins in the NAIA Division II ranks. They finished the season ranked first (Union) and second (Cornerstone) in the coaches’ poll released on March 1.
Union brings a 32-game win streak into tonight, having not lost since a 77-57 setback to Pikeville (Ky.), an NAIA Division I school, on Nov. 8. Cornerstone has won eight consecutive games, last losing to Wolverine-Hoosier Conference foe Aquinas (Mich.), 87-77, in the second to last game of the regular season on Feb. 15.
Union, one of two teams from the Appalachian Athletic Conference (along with Reinhardt), won both the conference regular season and postseason titles. It was the fourth consecutive AAC tournament championship and fifth overall. Cornerstone, one of three teams from the WHAC (Davenport, Aquinas), earned both conference titles as well.
The only two common opponents between the two teams are Aquinas and Indiana Wesleyan. Cornerstone went 2-1 against Aquinas, splitting during the regular season and then defeating the Saints in the conference championship. Union earned a 95-83 win over Aquinas in the first round of the Division II Championship. Both teams are 1-0 against IWU with Cornerstone earning a 90-83 early season win over the Wildcats and Union defeating IWU last night in the semifinals,92-80.
This is Cornerstone’s 15th trip to the D-II Championship, seventh appearance in the semifinals (4-3 record) and fourth championship game. They are all-time wins’ leader with 37-11 record at the D-II event. They are tied with Bethel and Oregon Tech for the most championships (3), winning the title in 1999, 2011 and 2015.
Union has qualified for the D-II Championship five times and sports a 5-4 record. Prior to this year’s championship run, Union’s previous best finish was a second-round loss in 2015. This is the Bulldogs first ever championship game appearance in any sport.
Team Capsules: (ranking listed ()if top 5 at championship)
No.1 Union: 34-3 (32 game win streak)
Tournament scoring average: 92ppg (3rd)
FG %-50% (5th)
3pt FG%-38% (37/97)
FT %-76% (75/99)
Reb Margin: +3
No.1 Cornerstone: 34-3 (8-game win streak)
Tournament scoring average: 80.2ppg
3pt FG%-30% (24/81)
FT %-74% (85/115)
Reb Margin: +8 (4th)
Prior Semifinals in 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2011, 2015
2017 Championship Match-up:
No. 1 Union (Ky.)(34-3) vs No. 1 Cornerstone (Mich.)(34-3), 6:02pm (CST) on ESPN3
Conference Record Through Semifinals: (teams listed are still in)
Appalachian: 4-1 (Union)
North Star: 3-1
Wolverine-Hoosier: 4-2 (Cornerstone)
Kansas Collegiate: 3-2
River States: 2-3
Great Plains: 1-4
The Sun: 0-1
Association of Independent: 0-3
#1: 13-2 (Cornerstone, Union) #5: 1-4
#2: 3-4 #6: 5-4
#3: 3-4 #7: 2-4
#4: 3-4 #8: 0-4
Stats Leaders (remaining teams only):
Points per Game: Kyle Steigenga (Cornerstone)-22.5 (12th overall)
Rebounds per Game: Sam Vander Sluis (Cornerstone)-13.8 (3rd overall)
Assists per Game: Michael McLaughlin (Cornerstone)-2.5 (T37th overall)
Field Goal Percentage: Sam Vander Sluis (Cornerstone)-67% (7th)
3pters Made: Cory Cox (Cornerstone)-2.5 (T18th)