Point Lookout, Mo.—Two teams from the Crossroads League will square off for the ultimate prize tonight in the 2016 NAIA Division II National Championship game at the Keeter Gymnasium on the campus of College of the Ozarks. No. 1 Saint Francis (Ind.), the top overall seed in the 32-team field, will play conference rival No. 2 Indiana Wesleyan in a championship game that will air on ESPN3. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:02pm with Dave Armstrong and Kevin Lehman on the broadcast.
Tonight’s game between the two Crossroads League rivals marks the second time in the 25-year history of the D-II Championship that teams from the same conference will match-up for the National Championship. In 2009, Oklahoma Wesleyan defeated College of the Ozarks (Mo.) 60-53 in a match-up between teams from the now defunct Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference.
The Crossroads League, formerly the Mid-Central Conference, has won six national championships, the most of any conference. Grace (1992), Bethel (1995, 97, 98), USF (2010) and Indiana Wesleyan (2104) have all won national titles.
Both teams have 30+ wins and are among the NAIA’s leaders in wins with USF leading D-II with a school record 33 victories and Indiana Wesleyan one win behind at 32, one shy of matching the Wildcats program record.
Saint Francis and Indiana Wesleyan have both won a national championship. USF won the title in 2010, defeating Walsh (Ohio) 67-66, and then lost in the championship game to Cornerstone (Mich.) the following year, 80-71. The Wildcats earned a 78-68 victory over Midland (Neb.) in the 2014 title game. The teams have combined for 17 championship appearances (IWU-9, USF-8) and a 40-13 record at the championship (IWU-21-7, USF-19-6).
This will be the fourth time the two rivals have played this season with USF winning the three previous match-ups. The Cougars defeated IWU 82-67 on their home floor on Jan. 16, shooting better than 50% from the field and from beyond the arc. Five USF players were in double figures, led by Seth Small with 18 points. Indiana Wesleyan was led by Josh Mawhorr with 22 points.
Austin Fox poured in a game-high 28 points in leading Saint Francis to an 87-74 win in game two played at IWU on Feb. 20. The 2015 All-American was nearly perfect, going 10-for-11 from the field and ripping down 14 rebounds. Evan Henry complimented the inside play by Fox with 22 points from the perimeter, draining four three-pointers. Indiana Wesleyan was led by Lane Mahurin with 21 points. USF shot well once again (55%) compared to 35% for the Wildcats.
The third match-up took place on March 1 and was for the Crossroads League postseason title where USF got two free throws by Fox with 1.7 seconds left to earn an 81-80 win. USF shot 60% for the game, compared to 46% by Indiana Wesleyan, but the Wildcats held the edge on the boards for the first time in three games, 34-29. Kegan Comer netted a game-high 32 points for USF and Bob Peters led IWU with 22.
Saint Francis ended the regular season as the top-ranked team, owning the top spot in the final coaches’ polls (March 2). They are the top overall seed in the 32-team field and have won 16 consecutive games heading into Tuesday night, the second longest win streak in program history (won 20 straight in 1999-2000). The Cougars are 33-4, setting a school record for wins in a season, the most wins in D-II this season. USF holds an 19-6 record at the Championship, winning the title in 2010 and finishing as the runner-up the following year (2011), losing to Cornerstone (Mich.) 80-71. The Cougars were the champions of the Naismith bracket, defeating No. 8 Dakota State (S.D.), No. 4 Mount Mercy (Iowa) and No. 3 Keiser (Fla.) and cruised to a 79-55 win over No. 7 IU East in last night’s semifinal. USF won both the Crossroads League regular season and postseason titles.
A No. 2 seed, Indiana Wesleyan is the Duer Bracket champion, earning wins over No. 7 Bellevue (Neb.), No. 3 Northwest Christian (Ore.) and No. 8 York (Neb.). They followed with a 66-65 win over Davenport (Mich.) in last night’s semifinal. The Wildcats were the Crossroads League runner-up in the regular season and earned an automatic bid into the championship by being the conference tournament runner-up. Indiana Wesleyan is 32-5 on the year . They ended the year ranked fifth in the final March 2 poll and spent three weeks at No. 1 (Dec. 1, Dec. 8 and Jan. 5). IWU won the 2014 National Championship and is 21-7 in nine years competing at the championship.
Head Coach Chad LaCross earned his 150th career win last night against IU East
9-1 in NAIA Championship games decided by five or fewer points; have won 14 of its last 17 games at the Championship by 9 points or fewer.
Guard Seth Small set the program record in career games played vs Keiser in the quarterfinals; Small has now played in 139 games heading into tonight
Forward Austin Fox is 13th on career scoring charts with 1,452 points; is program’s career leader in rebounding (901); 406 rebounds this season ranks second at USF (413 is record)
Guard Evan Henry has made at least one three-pointer in 36 straight games; has made 111 three-pointers this season, breaking the single season record.
Tied for second in the NAIA in three-point percentage for the season (42%)
Head coach Greg Tonagel earned his 300th career win last night against Davenport
The Wildcats are 23-0 when holding opponents to 79 points or less
Leads the NAIA in field goal percentage for the season (52%)
Tied for second in the NAIA in three-point percentage for the season (42%)
Ranks fourth in the NAIA in scoring offense for the season (90ppg)
Ranks fifth in the NAIA in three-pointers made (344)
Top Five Individual Scoring at 2016 Championship:
40-Trae Bergh, Dakota Wesleyan vs Indiana Tech
39-Trey Bardsley, Nebraska Wesleyan vs Warner Pacific
31-4x (Austin Fox-USF, Dominez Burnett-Davenport, Lucas Huffman-IU East and Warren Hall-Warner)
30-3x (Kyle Steigenga-Cornerstone, Trae Bergh-DWU and Taylor Young-Warner Pacific)
28-Clay Harreld, Briar Cliff vs IU East
Double-Doubles at 2016 Championship:
Bryce Lienhoop-(2x)-Saint Francis vs Mount Mercy; 16pts, 11 reb and vs IU East, 13pts, 14 reb.
Austin Fox-Saint Francs vs Mount Mercy; 17pts, 12 reb.
John McCloud-(2x) Davenport vs St. Xavier; 12 pts, 10 reb., vs Warner Pacific, 12pts, 10 reb.
Travis Giesselmann-Nebraska Wesleyan vs Warner Pacific; 14pts, 10 reb.
Jordyn Coon-Bethel vs Robert Morris; 17pts, 12 reb.
Trae Bergh-Dakota Wesleyan vs Indiana Tech, 40pts, 10 reb.
Jens Kennedy-St. Francis (Ill.) vs York; 26pts, 10 reb.
Stefan Zecevic-Keiser vs Cornerstone; 10pts, 10 reb.
De’Jon Bowman-Warner Pacific vs Davenport; 10pts, 11 reb.
Stanley Whittake-Keiser vs Saint Francs; 20pts, 10 reb.
Jade Miller-Dakota Wesleyan vs York; 25pts, 15 reb.
Roman Delgado-Cal Maritime vs Warner; 13pts, 10 reb.
Eddie Delegal-Warner vs Cal Maritime; 24pts, 13 reb.
Dominez Burnett-Davenport vs Warner Pacific; 22pts, 11 reb.
Kevin Rich-Davenport vs Warner Pacific; 15pts, 10 reb.
Records or top 10 All-time Individual/Team Performances:
Trae Bergh (Dakota Wesleyan)-tied for 10th most points (40) in single game, vs Indiana Tech
Bellevue-most 3-pointers attempted single game (54), vs Bellevue
Most 3-pointers attempted (73), combined two teams (Bellevue-54 vs Indiana Wesleyan-19)
Indiana Wesleyan-tied for fourth most field goals made (43) in single game, vs Bellevue
Indiana Wesleyan- tied for ninth most points (113) scored in single game, vs Bellevue
Indiana Wesleyan- fourth most rebounds (58) in single game, vs Bellevue
Robert Morris-tied for third most 3-pointers made (16) in single game, vs Bethel
Robert Morris-second most 3-pointers attempted (43) in single game, vs Bethel
Tied for third most 3-pointers attempted (65), combined two teams (Robert Morris-43 vs Bethel-22)
Trey Bardsley-Nebraska Wesleyan; most 3-pointers made single game-8, vs Warner Pacific
Nebraska Wesleyan-most 3-pointers made by a team (18) in a game, vs Warner Pacific
Third most 3-pointers made both teams (26); Nebraska Wesleyan (18) vs Warner Pacific (8)
Most 3-pointers attempted both teams (59); Nebraska Wesleyan (35) vs Warner Pacific (24)
Tied for 5th most points scored, both teams (207); Warner Pacific (106) vs Nebraska Wesleyan (101)
No. 1 Saint Francis (Ind.) def. IU East, 79-55
No. 2 Indiana Wesleyan def. No. 1 Davenport (Mich.), 66-65