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Rogers State Overcomes Early Deficit

March 16, 2012
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. - (Box Score) Ninth-seeded Rogers State (Okla.) became the first team to advance to the quarterfinal round of the 2012 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship on Friday morning with a 69-63 victory over Evangel (Mo.) at Municipal Auditorium.

Junior guard Donald Williams scored a game-high 23 points and hit four three-point shots for Rogers State, which will take on the winner of No. 1 seed Shorter (Ga.) and No. 16 seed Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.) on Saturday, March 17 at 2:00 p.m. (CDT). Brian Gibson added 10 points and five rebounds while Maurice Rutherford tallied nine rebounds, four steals and three assists.

Evangel head coach Steve Jenkins could not have scripted a better start to the game as his team jumped out to a 21-8 lead. The Crusaders forced seven early turnovers and hit 9-of-15 shots over the opening 9:25 while Rogers State struggled to find its offensive rhythm.

Junior guard Donald Williams took it upon himself to turn the tide for Rogers State as he hit a pair of three-point shots, the second coming at the 4:37 mark to help spark a 7-0 spurt to trim a 12-point lead down to 32-27. Victor Agbasi answered with a trey of his own for the Crusaders, but the Hillcats scored the final five points of the half to give Evangel a 35-32 lead at the break.

Williams continued the surge as he scored five of the first seven points of the second half to conclude a 12-0 run to span 5:48 of both halves and give the Hillcats a 40-35 lead. Evangel righted the ship and the teams traded baskets for the next four minutes before Rogers State put together another sustained run that proved to be the difference in the game.

A single free throw by Meneptha Darden began a string of 11-straight points scored by the Hillcats. The transition game kicked into high gear as well with Williams and Alex Ewings each converting on the break over a span of 1:35 to take a 58-47 lead.

The Crusaders inched their way back into the game late behind the inside play of Stephen Cotten, who scored six of his team-high 13 points in a 13-5 stretch to cut the deficit to 63-60. Rogers State hit all eight of its free throws over the final 37 seconds and were unable to get any closer than two points after a three-pointer by Mitch McHenry with :28.6 remaining.

The Hillcats turned the game around at the free throw line, hitting 12-of-16 attempts in the second half while the Crusaders did not get to the charity stripe after intermission. Evangel was also just 2-of-12 (.167) from 3-point range in the second half to finish the game 5-for-21 (.238) from distance.

McHenry added 11 points for Evangel, which finished its season with a record of 24-10, while Zack Kleine added nine points, six rebounds and four assists.

Game Notes:
Evangel: Evangel came into the tournament ranked No. 10 in the NAIA in scoring defense, holding their opponents to 63.2 points per game ... Jayme Donnelly ranked No. 2 in the national statistics in three-point field goal percentage percent (47.9) ... Mitch McHenry doubled his season average of 5.6 points per game, reaching double figures for the sixth time this season. ... Evangel moves to 1-3 in the tournament since making the jump to NAIA Division I for the 2009 tournament ... Heart of America Athletic Conference teams now have a combined record of 8-11 in Kansas City since 2009.

Rogers State: Rogers State improved to 4-2 all-time at the national tournament and advances to the quarterfinals for the second-straight season ... The Hillcats became the sixth seeded team to trail at the half in this year's tournament, running the record in those instances to 4-2 ... Rogers State boasted the No. 16 scoring offense in NAIA Div. I (81.1 ppg) ... The Hillcats were one of only three teams through the regular season to be shooting above 50 percent from the field ... Donald Williams ranked No. 12 in the NAIA in three-point field goals per game (2.7) and No. 19 in three-point field goal percentage percent (.422).