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Bulldogs win overtime thriller

UMW News Bureau

The University of Montana Western men’s basketball team pulled off a thrilling overtime win in their first round match-up in the 2013 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I National Tournament. The Bulldogs overcame an early deficit to take out the Philander Smith Panthers (Little Rock, Ark.) 99-94.

The first half was not pretty for the Bulldogs as they fell behind by as much as 15, shot 35 percent (12-34) from the field, 25 percent (4-16) on threes and 38 percent (3-8) from the charity stripe. However, the Bulldogs stuck around and were only down eight, 39-31, at the half.

Montana Western gradually got closer in the second half, pulling within three on a Jordan Overstreet long ball at the 12:37 mark. The Panthers responded with a 9-2 run to go back up by 10. Lone senior Vince Turk fired up and again the Bulldogs crept back in, this time getting within one after Kris Collins sank a free throw and three-pointer on the same possession followed by a Tyler Miller basket with 6:51 remaining.

At the 4:22 mark, another Miller basket gave the Bulldogs their first lead in almost 33 minutes, 71-69. As time wound down, the teams traded baskets and no one went up by more than three. A huge offensive put-back by Turk tied the game with 34 seconds remaining. Philander Smith’s last shot was off the mark and the tournament’s first overtime game was set.

The Panthers made the first overtime bucket before the Bulldogs scored 12 unanswered points and led 90-80 with 1:46 remaining. A total of 10 points were scored in the next 40 seconds but the Bulldogs maintained their lead with a 95-85 score. With only 24 seconds left in the contest, Philander Smith made three big shots beyond the arc, getting within three points. Two clutch free throws from Overstreet were enough to seal the 99-94 win for Montana Western.

Free throws proved to be the difference in the game as the Bulldogs were 19 of 29 (66 percent) while the Panthers were 15 of 28 (54 percent). Both teams shot 34 percent from three-point land (12-35 for UMW and 11-32 for PSC). Montana Western went 34 of 71 from the field (48 percent) while Philander Smith was 34 of 73 (47 percent).

Five players reached double figures for the Bulldogs led by Miller and Collins with 22 apiece. Maazin Butler followed with 16 while Overstreet and Turk each chipped in 11. Jake Owsley and Kris Castro each pulled down 10 rebounds while Turk had seven. Gabe Rucker handed out six assists, Miller had four and Butler had three.

Philander Smith was led by Andre Clark’s 22 points and 15 rebounds and Demarkus Lipscomb’s 15 points, 11 assists and five steals. Also contributing were Clayton Busby with 16 points and D’Alvin Brown and Juvon Demerson with 12 points apiece. Gulf Coast Athletic Conference MVP Alvin Nance was held to just 10 points, well below his conference best 20.55 per game.

Montana Western will move on to play the third-ranked Lee University Flames (Cleveland, Tenn.) out of the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC). One of three other conferences joining the Frontier in sending four teams to nationals, the SSAC is comprised of 14 schools throughout the south. Next season, Lee will move on to the Gulf South Conference and begin the move to NCAA Division II play.

The Flames, SSAC regular season Champions with a 16-2 record, were eliminated in their conference tournament semi-finals 67-65 by Faulkner University (Montgomery, Ala.). They received an at-large bid after dropping from second to third in the final regular season coaches top 25 poll.

This is their eighth straight trip to nationals under head coach Tommy Brown and their 10th in school history. Lee has an overall tournament record of 8-9 and they have reached the Elite Eight three times (2003, 2008 and 2010).

The Flames rank first in the NAIA for limiting opponents to 37 percent shooting. Their tough man defense was on display in their first round 67-49 victory over Voorhees College (Bamberg, S.C.). Lee held Voorhees to only 16 field goals for the entire game and 25 percent shooting overall.

Lee was 20 of 46 (44 percent) from the field, six of 20 (30 percent) from behind the arc and 21 of 32 (66 percent) from the foul line. Chase Dunn finished with 19 points. Duran Blue tallied 13 points and dished off seven assists, while Will Barnes pitched in with 13 points and grabbed five rebounds. Jamorris Gaines had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Barnes, a 6’1” senior, was named SSAC Player of the Year after averaging 20.15 points per game and shooting 51 percent on the year. Fellow senior, 6’10” Steve Bennett, leads the Flames with 7.78 rebounds and 1.25 blocks per contest. Blue, another senior listed at 6’1,” leads the SSAC conference with 4.66 assists and Lee with 1.22 steals

The eight-game second round will begin Friday, March 15 at 9 a.m. CST while quarterfinal action tips off at 2 p.m. on March 16. An all-tournament pass to watch the broadcast games is available for $29.95, while a single day pass can be purchased for $9.95. The semifinals on March 18 will be broadcast live on ESPN3 at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. while the championship final will be televised live on CBS Sports Network at 7:30 p.m. on March 19. Visit www.NAIA.org for more information or a complete bracket.

Montana Western (23-9) and Lee University (30-3) will battle it out on Friday, March 15 at 9:45 a.m. MST. The winner will advance to the quarterfinals for a Saturday 1 p.m. match-up with either Martin Methodist College (Pulaski, Tenn.) or Southwestern Assemblies of God University (Waxahachie, Texas).