KANSAS CITY, Mo. - (Box Score) No. 4 seed John Brown (Ark.) punched its fifth ticket all-time into the second round after holding off a feisty Life (Ga.) squad for a 68-66 victory in the 2013 Buffalo-Funds NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship. The Golden Eagles will face No. 13 Georgetown (Ky.) Friday at 12:30 p.m. CDT. The 76th annual event is held at Municipal Auditorium.
The Golden Eagles, who improve to 6-2 all-time in the first round, held a comfortable 37-27 halftime lead before Life made a comeback. The Running Eagles, who dropped their sixth-straight first round contest, had a good chance with less than 10 seconds remaining. LaTarrance Carter got an open 3-point look from the left corner but his shot fell short just before the horn. Carter may have been left wide open as he only shoots 24 percent from 3-point range.
Things didn't start off well for John Brown as the team trailed 6-0 in the early going. Abel Galliguez's jumper at the 18:00 minute mark got the Golden Eagles on the board. Life controlled the pace and still led 8-6 with 15 minutes left. From there, the Runnin' Eagles went just 6-for-25 (.240) from the field and went into the locker room down by 10.
"They're a good team, and we kept giving them chances to stay in it," said John Brown head coach Clark Sheehy. "But give them credit, they're much better than their record, and they threw at us the toughest press we've seen all season."
The deficit for Life grew to 13 on three occasions, with the last coming at 45-32 with 16:51 left in the game. But that is when Barrington Ferguson went to work for Life. He had nine of his career-high 17 points in the second half. His fast-break dunk at the 8:26 mark tied the score at 52-52. Teammate Mike Robertson's spinning lay-up with just over a minute to go capped off a 34-20 run. That bucket handed Life its final lead at 66-65.
EJ McWoods connected on two free throws with :36 seconds remaining to put John Brown up 68-66. Those points improved the Golden Eagles to a 10-5 championship record, and ended Life's season.
Life head coach John Barrett wasn't surprised the game came down to the last shot. "You can either hit the shot or not hit the shot, and this time we didn't hit it," he said. "I'm really proud of the way we battled to the end."
John Brown's trio of guards in the form of McWoods, Coleson Rakestraw and Kofi Josephs was too much for Life. McWoods came off the bench to net a game-high 18 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Rakestraw and Josephs each finished with 15 points.
Life got 11 bench points from Robertson and nine points and 11 rebounds from Stefan Pope.
Both teams did not shoot the ball well, with John Brown at 41.8 percent (23-of-55) and Life at 41.4 percent (24-of-58).
- Life University (Ga.) returns for their fifth consecutive and 14th overall trip to the NAIA National Championship. A three-time national champion, Life is one of a select group of schools to win back-to-back titles, claiming top honors in 1999 and 2000. The Running Eagles posted a 19-13 overall record on the season and earned the TranSouth Athletic Conference's automatic bid after defeating Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) 70-68.
- Today marks only the fifth time this year Life was held below 30 points in a half, but it's not a season low. The Runnin' Eagles were held to 26 points by Martin Methodist (Tenn.) in the first half of the team's matchup on Jan. 26. Life could only muster 27 points in the second half of the 69-53 loss. They were limited to 29 points in losses to Robert Morris (Ill.) (92-86, Feb. 16) and Voorhees (S.C.) (105-82, Dec. 8).
- After finishing runner-up to Martin Methodist in the regular season, Life captured the final TranSouth Athletic Conference (TSC) tournament title in their only year of membership in a conference to date.
- After winning back-to-back national championships and three-of-four titles from 1997 - 2000, Life has gone winless in their last six trips to the tournament.
- Life's squad is senior-laden, with seven of the team's 10 players in their final season of eligibility.
John Brown Notes:
- This marks the seventh appearance for the Golden Eagles in the national championship and second straight.
- JBU went into halftime with a 37-27 lead and led by as many as 12 points late in the first.
- Coleson Rakestraw led all players on the floor in scoring in the first with 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting.
- JBU held Life without a field goal in the final 5:11 of the first half. There were three lead changes and thee ties in the first half.
- JBU entered the tournament ranked No. 1 in the NAIA in three-point field goal percentage at 39.6-percent. The Golden Eagles are also third nationally in total three-point baskets made with 335. They finished today shooting 6-of-23 (.261) from three-point range.
- JBU was outrebounded by Life, 38-35.
- JBU has won 11 of its last 13 games and had a school record 27 wins in the regular season.
With the win, John Brown's seniors have eclipsed the 100-win plateau, a program record for any four-year span.