College Sports

Northwest Missouri State basketball reaches national semifinals for first time

File art.
File art. AP

The Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball team made school history Wednesday night.

The Bearcats reached the school’s first final four in the sport with a 79-70 victory over St. Thomas Aquinas in the Division II national tournament at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Fall, S.D.

Northwest, the No. 2 seed, improved to 33-1 with the victory and will face either No. 3 Lincoln Memorial or No. 6 Chico State in a semifinal at 8:30 p.m. Thursday.

“This is big, obviously,” senior forward Zach Schneider told NCAA.com. “We had great fan support tonight. It is going to keep getting bigger. It is a big program win, but we are going to watch the next game and see who we are going to play.”

Justin Pitts led the Bearcats with 26 points on 9-of-18 shooting while Schneider added 16 points and five rebounds. Brett Dougherty had 14 points and five rebounds, and Chris-Ebou Ndow recorded a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

Northwest out-rebounded the St. Thomas Aquinas 38-25 in the win.

“We were just in the right spot at the right time,” Northwest coach Ben McCollum said in the postgame press conference. “The other part is a lot of teams will sag off certain guys and they get to the offensive glass with ease. They’re already at five feet to try and take away Justin (Pitts) and it makes it fairly easy to get offensive rebounds.”

Northwest led 33-27 at halftime. St. Thomas Aquinas pulled to within two points at with less than 10 minutes remaining, but Schneider hit a three-pointer to extend the lead. A few minutes later, St. Thomas Aquinas again threatened and pulled to within three, but Pitts had an answer with another three.

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