Story By Andy Pulverenti | NAIA Staff
Photos courtesy of Referee Photo
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Box Score) No. 5-seeded Graceland (Iowa) scored 47 points in the second half to defeat defending national champion and No. 4-seeded Texas Wesleyan, 70-61, in the first round of the 2018 NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship, Thursday evening inside Municipal Auditorium in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Graceland earns the programs first national postseason victory, and advances to the second round against No. 8-seeded Langston (Okla.), Friday at 5:45 p.m. CDT.
- Graceland improves to 25-10 on the season, capturing the program’s first National postseason win in its first-ever championship trip.
- Texas Wesleyan, the 2017 national champion, ends its season at 22-11.
- Graceland Center Jeremy Deemer led four Yellowjackets in double-figures with a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds. Deemer recorded his 13th double-double of the season.
- Graceland Forward Justin Harley came up one rebound shy of a double-double, scoring 10 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
- Texas Wesleyan Guard Branden Jenkins finished with 30 points, reaching the 30-point mark for the third time this season.
- Texas Wesleyan Guard Juwan Jones came off the bench to score 15 points.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Graceland scored the opening six points of the game, and eventually built up an early 11-3 lead in the first five minutes of play.
- Texas Wesleyan outscored Graceland by a 9-2 margin over the next four minutes to pull back to a 13-12 deficit. Juwan Jones scored five points during that stretch of play.
- Graceland then built its first double-digit lead of the game, going on a 10-1 spurt to lead 23-12 with 6:08 to play in the first half. Justin Harley and Jeremy Deemer both scored four points during the run.
- Texas Wesleyan kept Graceland scoreless in the final six minutes of the first half, and eventually tied the game at 23-23 going into halftime. All 11 points during the run were scored by Brandon Jenkins.
- Graceland outscored Texas Wesleyan by an 11-4 margin in the opening four minutes of the second half to hold a 34-27 lead.
- Graceland stretched out its lead to 44-31 with 12:46 remaining in the game, and continued to lead by at least nine points until a three-point play from Will Nelson put the advantage at 52-38, the largest of the game, with 8:15 to play.
- Texas Wesleyan put together a late run, scoring eight-straight points, to pull back to a 63-58 deficit with 1:24 on the clock, but Graceland scored the next six points and eventually won, 70-61.
HOW THEY SAW IT
- Texas Wesleyan Head Coach Brennen Shingleton: “That was a tough environment. You’ve got everything on the line, and then their crowd made this a home game. We fought hard, but at the end of the day, it just wasn’t enough. They killed us on the glass. We gave up 20 extra possessions and then we just couldn’t get the ball to drop. We had some guys play hard, but the production just wasn’t here.”
- Graceland Head Coach Craig Doty: “We battled through a tough shooting first half and ultimately controlled the game throughout the second half. Rebounding was the difference as we had 20 offensive rebounds. Our scoring balance was great and we defended well despite Jenkins hitting a tough shot after tough shot. It’s time to get refocused and prepare for tomorrow night. Our rotation isn’t deep so we will really need a good night of recovery.”
INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
- Jeremy Deemer entered the game leading the NAIA in field goal percentage (.672), and finished 6 of 9 from the floor (.667).
- Texas Wesleyan is the first team so far in the 2018 NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship to never hold a lead.
- Graceland scored 26 second-chance points, the most of any team so far at the national championship.
- The two teams combined to shoot 14 of 59 from three-point range for a .237 percentage.
The Rams qualified for the national tournament for the third-straight season and the ninth time since 2006...This is Texas Wesleyan's 16th appearance overall in the NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship and the Rams have a 18-14 all-time record...Texas Wesleyan is 8-8 all-time in opening round games...Texas Wesleyan is the defending national champion, having defeated Life (Ga.) in last year's title game. The Rams also won a national title in 2006, besting Oklahoma City in that title matchup...Texas Wesleyan is one of five Sooner Athletic Conference teams in this year's tournament and Sooner Conference teams are 2-2 in the tournament thus far...The Rams are 5-8 against national tournament qualifiers...The Rams entered the national tournament having won five of its last seven games, but they have alternated wins and losses in their last four...Last year's national title run snapped a string of three straight first-round eliminations for the Rams...
Graceland played in its first national postseason game in program history… Head Coach Craig Doty is no stranger to postseason success, as he won two NJCAA Division III National Championships at Rock Valley (Ill.) College following the 2013-14 and 2015-16 seasons… Graceland improves to 5-4 so far this season against team’s in this year’s national championship...The Graceland campus in Lamoni, Iowa is the closest to Municipal Auditorium of any team in this year’s event, at 116 miles, 10 miles shorter than Columbia’s (Mo.) campus…Graceland’s current win streak of seven is the longest for the team this season…Two Yellowjackets are playing in front of a hometown crowd…Nick Coleman attended Liberty North (Mo.) High School and Will Nelson attended Raytown (Mo.) High School, both in the Kansas City metro area…
Higher seeds are 7-7 thus far in the tournament, but two No. 1 seeds, two No. 2 seeds and the defending national champion are already out…. 12 of the first 14 games have been decided by 10 points or less, including seven by six points or less and five by three points or less.