KANSAS CITY, Mo. - (Box score; video) Senior guard Kyle Erickson scored with 26 seconds remaining in overtime to give Montana Western an 85-83 victory over No. 13-seeded John Brown (Ark.), Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the 2012 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship at Municipal Auditorium.
"We found a way to win," head coach Steve Keller said. "We got a little tentative with the basketball and had 16 second-half turnovers that let them back in the game. But give John Brown credit. They didn't quit and made a great comeback."
With the score tied after a 3-pointer by John Brown's Coleson Rakestraw with 52 seconds remaining, Erickson collected the ball on the left side of the lane and scored in the middle of the painted area for what proved to be the game-winning bucket.
Montana Western looked to be in control of the game heading into halftime, using a 23-9 stretch over the last 5:39 of the opening period to provide a 46-31 halftime advantage. The lead grew to as much as 22 points with 15:24 remaining in regulation following a pair of free throws by Brandon Brown before John Brown turned the tables to set up an exciting finish.
Junior guard Abel Galliguez hit one of his seven 3-pointers to start a 7-0 spurt to trim the Golden Eagles' deficit to a dozen points with 10:24 remaining. With the Montana Western lead back to 14, Galliguez hit back-to-back treys, igniting a 22-6 stretch over 8:26 that culminated with Coleson Rakestraw converting a steal into a bucket to give the Golden Eagles a 74-73 lead with 1:18 to play.
Both teams came up empty on their next possessions before Brandon Brown drove the length of the floor and drew a foul. He made the first of his two free throws, but the Bulldogs pulled down the missed second shot. Rakestraw had a chance to win it in regulation, but his 3-point attempt at the buzzer was blocked by Brown.
"I thought our guys played with effort and heart," said John Brown University head coach Clark Sheehy, "It would have been easy in that situation to fall apart and give up but our guys stuck with it."
"It's an emotional game," said Sheehy, reflecting on the tournament and on his three seniors' last collegiate game. "To be honest, I didn't say much to them besides how proud I am of their effort in this game and how much I appreciate what they did. A lot of teams would not have had the character to stick with it."
Brown led all scorers with 26 points to go along with nine assists and six rebounds for Montana Western, setting up a second-round matchup with No. 4-seeded Concordia (Calif.) on Friday at 2:15 p.m. Tyler Hurley added 16 points, Erickson tallied 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists, and Bridger Chambers chipped in with 10 points.
Galliguez and Andy Garcia shared team-high scoring honors with 23 points for John Brown, which has its season come to a close with a record of 24-9. Garcia had 12 rebounds to lead the Golden Eagles, while Rakestraw posted 18 points and EJ McWoods tossed in 13 points.
Montana Western: Montana Western improves to 4-6 in the opening round and three of those wins have come since 1959 (when the tournament began seeding to 16) and have been over a ranked opponent ...
Senior guard Brandon Brown entered the tournament ranking 8th in the NAIA in scoring (22.1) ... Brown's game-high 26 points was the fourth-highest single-game scoring effort of the 2012 tournament and third-highest among a opening round winner.
John Brown (Ark.): The Golden Eagles fell to 9-5 all-time in the national tournament in their 6th appearance and are now 4-2 in opening round games ... John Brown also was the second-ranked team through 12 games to lose when trailing at the half (No. 8 Lindsay Wilson also lost). ... The Golden Eagles came into the tournament ranked 3rd in total rebound margin (9.1) and 7th in 3-pointers per game (8.1) ... Abel Galliguez hit seven 3-pointers, falling one shy of his season high and helping snap a 0-for-11 streak from beyond the arc over his previous two games. ... John Brown played in its second-consecutive opening round overtime game, beating McKendree (Ill.) in 2010.