By Matt Bos, NAIA Media Coordinator
POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. – (Box Score) –Diamontae McKinley poured in a game-high 33 points as unseeded Ashford (Iowa) used a big second half to pull off a convincing 83-57 upset win over No. 12 Bethel (Ind.) in the first round of the 2015 NAIA Division II National Championship.
With the victory, Ashford earned its first victory at the Division II National Championship and moved to 22-11 on the year. The Saints have won nine straight games and will play No. 5 Dakota Wesleyan in the second round on Friday afternoon at 5:45pm.
It was a defensive struggle in a first half that resulted in a 26-24 Bethel lead. Both teams made just nine field goals over the opening 20 minutes with Ashford shooting 28% and Bethel at 43%.
With 17 minutes left, Ashford took a 29-28 lead on a McKinley jumper, a lead they would hold onto for the rest of the way.
Still just up one (34-33), Ashford began an emphatic run that put the game completely out of Bethel’s reach. The scoring spurt, which lasted a little over seven minutes, was 26-7 overall, and put Ashford up by 20 points at 60-40.
From there, Bethel could not get back in the game as the Saints rolled into the second round with a 26-point win.
“Our guys really dug in on defense and that was huge when our shots weren’t falling in the first half,” said Ashford head coach Oliver Drake. “We told our team at halftime that the shots would come but they needed to stay dialed in on defense. We kept the pressure on them defensively in the second half and were able to keep getting good looks that fell for us in the second half.”
McKinley scored 28 of his game-high 33 points in the second half, nailing six threes on the evening. The junior’s scoring effort is the highest at this year’s championship thus far. Anthony Woods added 15 points, Nick Wood came off the bench to score 14 and Teance Walton registered a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
This marks the first ever first round loss for Bethel, who concludes its season with a 27-7 overall record. They were led by Zach Miller who ended with 16 points.