Kansas City, Mo. - (box score) No. 9 Rogers State (Okla.) won the first game of the 75th Anniversary Buffalo Funds -NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship by a 62-57 score over Tougaloo (Miss.). The Hillcats will advance to the second round for the second-straight season and play the winner of Evangel (Mo.) / No. 8 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) on Friday at 9 a.m. CST. The event is held at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.
The theme was defense for the Hillcats, which hail from the Sooner Athletic Conference. They limited Tougaloo to 22 percent (8-of-36) shooting in the first half and 29 percent overall (14-of-39). That defensive display helped Rogers State to a 28-21 halftime lead.
After a Marquise Mems 3-pointer handed Tougaloo a 13-11 lead at the 12:06 mark, the Bulldogs went cold from the field. As a team, Tougaloo went scoreless for nearly three minutes as Rogers State took a 19-13 advantage, a lead it would never give up.
"All the credit goes to the kids," said Rogers State head coach Justin Barkley. "The game got away from us at the end from up 11 points down to really two possessions in the last couple of minutes. But we didn't hit the panic button and our conference play has prepared us for this type of game. At this point in the year, it is win and advance. They (the kids) were focused, had an agenda and were ready to play."
The Bulldogs trimmed the deficit to one point on two occasions in the second half, with the last coming at the 9:44 mark. But, Larry Cox, who was one of three Hillcats in double figures, tapped in a basket to push the Rogers State lead back to 11 at 58-47.
Four free throws down the stretch sealed the win for the Hillcats.
Rogers State held a distinct rebounding advantage overall, 47-36, and outscored the Bulldogs 18-4 at the free throw line. The Hillcats shot 41.3 percent (19-of-46) overall. Donald Williams led Rogers State in scoring with 17 points, with eight of those coming from the charity stripe.
Mems led all scorers with 20 points, his 23rd game of the year when he hit for at least 20. James Carter notched 11 rebounds.
"This is the worst game, shooting wise, that we have ever played," said Tougaloo head coach Lafayette Stribling."With that type of shooting, you can't win a game. Our defense was not bad. We missed a couple of assignments, but overall, the defense was good. The offense just wasn't there. I am proud of the seniors and I could not have asked for anything else. They played hard, the shots just wouldn't fall."
Tougaloo ends its season at 25-9.
Tougaloo - Tougaloo remained winless at the national tournament all-time, falling to 0-4 ... The Bulldogs returned to the tournament for the second time in three seasons after failing to qualify for the 2011 tournament ... Horace Whitehead, the NAIA's leader in blocked shots with 96, tallied one blocked shot... Tougaloo collected 20 or more wins for the fourth-straight season.
Rogers State - Rogers State advances to the second round for the second-straight season after knocking off Texas Wesleyan in the 2011 tournament, 66-64 ... The Hillcats improve to 3-2 all-time at the national tournament and have won back-to-back opening round games after losing their first-ever game in 2009 to William Jewell (Mo.), 76-73 ... With the victory, the No. 9 seed has now won 11-straight first round contests dating back to the 2002 tournament ... Donald Williams scored in double figures for the 24th time in 31 games after scoring a team-high 17 points.