Story By Eric Montgomery | Media Coordinator
Photos courtesy of Referee Photo
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Box Score) No. 3-seeded Montana Western had six players score in double figures on the way to a 105-96 victory over sixth-seeded SAGU (Texas) to advance to the second round in the Liston Bracket of the 81st Annual NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship, Thursday morning at Municipal Auditorium. The Bulldogs will play the winner of No. 2-seeded Columbia (Mo.) and No. 7-seeded Campbellsville (Ky.), on Friday, March 16 at 4:00 p.m. CDT.
- Montana Western improved its season record to 26-7
- SAGU finished its season with a record of 24-10
- Zaccheus Darko-Kelly posted a double-double with 24 points and 11 rebounds to go along with four steals, three assists and three blocked shots for Montana Western
- Dom Robinson added 21 points and six assists for the Bulldogs, converting all 11 of his free throw attempts
- Joshua Swearingin led all scorers in a reserve role for SAGU with 25 points and seven rebounds
- Cameron Hill chipped in with 21 points, six rebounds and five assists for the Lions
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Both teams shot over 50 percent in the first half and combined to hit 13 three-point shots
- With SAGU leading 68-65 with 14:58 remaining in the second half, Montana Western used a 12-1 run over three minutes for a 77-69 lead
- The Bulldogs continued to surge ahead, pushing the lead into double digits, where it stood for over 6:00 of play
- A steal and basket by Joshua Kashila with 29 seconds left trimmed the SAGU deficit back down to six, but Montana Western added three late free throws to seal the win
HOW THEY SAW IT
- Montana Western head coach Steve Keller – “(SAGU)’s a very good basketball team. That Sooner Athletic Conference is one of the best in the country. I’m proud of our guys. Now we have to find some way to get some rest.”
- SAGU head coach Dalton Deal – “(Montana Western) is extremely efficient offensively. We didn’t guard very well. We usually play better defense than that. I attribute a lot of that to them.”
INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
- SAGU posted a 21-16 advantage in turnovers, but Montana Western used its takeaways better with a 25-19 edge in points off turnovers
- Both teams hit 10 three-point shots and SAGU made one more field goal (32-31), but Montana Western held a 33-22 edge in made free throws while both teams attempted 38 at the charity stripe
Montana Western is making its 15th appearance in the NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship, including seven out of the past eight seasons... The Bulldogs punched an NAIA Second Round ticket for the third time in the last four years… Montana Western last advanced to the second round in 2017, beating LSU Shreveport (La.) in the first round before losing to Dalton State (Ga.) in the second round... The Bulldogs are now 9-14 all-time in the national championship and 8-7 in the opening round...The Bulldogs earned an at-large bid into this season’s event after falling to Carroll (Mont.) in the finals of the Frontier Conference tournament championship… Coming into the game against SAGU, Montana Western had won eight of its past 11 contests.
The Lions return to the championship for the sixth-straight season and seventh time overall… The Lions advanced to the second round in 2017, defeating Talladega (Ala.) in the first round before falling to Carroll (Mont.) in the second round, 87-80... The Lions are now 5-7 all-time in the national championship, including 2-5 in the opening round... SAGU is one of five 2018 qualifiers from the Sooner Athletic Conference ... The Lions received an automatic bid into this year's national championship after defeating Wayland Baptist (Texas) in the finals of the Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament... The Lions had won three straight games entering the tournament and are winners of 11 out of its last 13.