March 08, 2012
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POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. – (box score) No. 7 Bellevue (Neb.) used an outstanding defensive effort to defeat Daemen (N.Y.), 58-48, in the first round of the 2012 NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship. The event is being played at the College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Mo.
This was a defensive struggle throughout as both teams shot well below their season average. Bellevue shot 34 percent for the game and went 1-for-10 from beyond the arc, while Daemen was just 33 percent from the floor.
Daemen came out strong to start, owning an 18-8 lead after a three-pointer by Casey Sheehan. The Bruins, despite shooting a mere 27 percent in the first half, cut the deficit to six by halftime, 29-23.
Bellevue continued to comeback, grabbing its first lead since the opening minutes on a 3-point play by Jelani Johnson with 15 minutes to go. Daemen pulled back in front on a jumper by Dom Mazzocchi, but the Bruins defense took over from there, holding Daemen without a field goal for over nine minutes, leading to a 48-41 lead with less than two minutes left. Bellevue preserved the win with some clutch free throw shooting down the stretch.
Johnson led Bellevue with 16 points and eight rebounds, while Ousseynou Diop added 11 points and pulled down six boards. The Bruins forced Daemen into 18 turnovers, which was one of the keys to the victory.
Daemen was led by Casey Sheehan with 17 points, who finished 3-for-10 from beyond the arc. Mazzocchi added 11 points and nine rebounds for the Wildcats, who end the season with a 20-11 overall record. It was the first national tournament appearance for Daemen since 2006 and fourth overall.
The Bruins move on to the second round for the sixth-straight year and will play either No. 10 Jamestown (N.D.) or Saint Francis (Ind.) on Friday at noon.