KANSAS CITY, Mo. - (Box score;video) Cam Miller was one of five players in double figures with 30 and led No. 11 Mountain State (W.Va.) to a 98-79 win against MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) at the 75th Anniversary of the 2012 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship. The event is held at the Municipal Auditorium.
The Cougars move on to play No. 6 Martin Methodist (Tenn.) on Friday at 8 p.m. CDT in the second round.
Despite the partisan crowd decked out in blue, red and white, MidAmerica Nazarene could not pull out the win. Rustin Dowd tried to carry the Pioneers himself with 27 points on 8-of-18 shooting. In the end, the height and athleticism of Mountain State was too much.
"We had this experience last year (on playing a local team) when we opened up with Park (Mo.)," said Mountain State head coach Bob Bolen. "I knew MidAmerica Nazarene's transition was so good from watching tape. We had to get back on defense, and I thought we did a much better job in the second half. That was our key, getting back on defense, because they are relentless running the basketball."
The Cougars turned a slim 40-37 halftime lead into a comfortable margin in the game's final 20 minutes. Miller notched 18 points in the second half and as a team, shot 59 percent (17-of-29).
MidAmerica Nazarene could never take the lead, but tied the game three times with the last tie coming right before the half. The Pioneers stayed close with tough defense, forcing Mountain State into eight turnovers and 39 percent shooting in the first 20 minutes.
But, the second half was a different story. A jumper by Devon Peterson just seconds into the second half ignited a 24-13 run for the Cougars that put the game in control for MSU. Up 64-50 at the 11:06 mark, Mountain State's lead never shrunk below 10.
Behind Miller in the scoring column, Mark Williams and Isaiah Hill checked in with 15 points. Seven-footer David Nyarsuk posted 11 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks. Peterson came away with 10 points.
Conner Langrehr netted 12 points for MidAmerica Nazarene, while Jacob French and Nick Syrie had 10 apiece. Luke Thomas narrowly missed a double-double with nine points and nine boards.
"With a team like that with their size, you have to keep them out of the paint and run," said MidAmerica Nazarene head coach Rocky Lamar. "We did neither and they took advantage of it. But this was a great experience for this team, and we have everyone back for next year."
MidAmerica Nazarene, in its first tournament since 2009, ends the year with a 25-9 record.
MidAmerica Nazarene: MidAmerica Nazarene made its second appearance in the Division I national tournament and first since advancing to the Fab Four in 2009 ... The Pioneers have an overall record of 3-2 at the national tournament including a 1-1 mark in opening round games ... MNU came into the tournament ranked first in the NAIA in field goal percentage (.511), second in 3-point field goal percentage (.388), fifth in assists per game (17.5) and 3-point field goal defense (.285), and eighth in blocks per game (4.6) ... Junior guard Rustin Dowd, the Heart of America Athletic Conference Player of the Year, ranked fourth in 3-point field goal percentage (.454)... Fans had to travel only about 20 miles to Municipal Auditorium.
Mountain State: Mountain State is making its 14th-straight appearance at the national tournament and improved its overall record to 25-12 all-time with a 11-3 mark in first round games ... The Cougars have won five-straight opening round games by an average margin of 11.0 points... Sophomore center David Nyarsuk, the tallest player in the tournament at 7'1", is second in the NAIA in blocks per game with 3.0 ... Senior forward Cam Miller had the third-best individual scoring output of the tournament thus far with 30.