Make room, Kentucky State. Step aside, Tennessee State. You’ve got company.
Georgetown (Ky.) College overpowered Carroll (Mont.) College 68-48 and won the 82nd NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament championship game Tuesday night in front of 3,154 at Municipal Auditorium, giving the Tigers their third national title.
The Tigers, 33-4, became only the seventh school to win as many as three titles in the oldest national college tournament.
Oklahoma City has won six championships, and Georgetown joined Kentucky State, Tennessee State, Grand (Ariz.) Canyon, Life (Ga.), Hamline (Minn.), as three-time winners.
Georgetown also has been a runner-up four times, including a bitter last-second loss to Mid-America (Okla.) Christian in 2016, so this win was particularly gratifying to the Tigers. Carroll, 29-8, in its 13th NAIA Tournament appearance, was making its first appearance in the finals. Until this week, the farthest they had reached was in 2005 when current first year coach Kurt Paulson was the Fighting Saints’ point guard.
By contrast, this was Georgetown’s 38th appearance, and the Tigers are 73-37 in the tournament, the most wins of any program. This win was by the most lopsided margin in an NAIA title game since Georgetown beat SAGU (Texas) 88-62 in 2013.
Georgetown, exploiting its advantages in height, length and quickness, received contributions from all eight players in uniform and became the first No. 1 seed to win the tournament since Mountain State (W. Va.) in 2004.
Point guard Eljay Coward scored 15 points and dished five assists, super sub Dominique Reid scored 14 points and forward Chris Coffey, the tournament MVP, scored 10 points with 16 rebounds, his fourth double-double of the tournament.
“To go from losing here (in the title game) my freshman year to winning it all is a big difference, baby,” said Coffey, a 6-7 junior from Louisville. “We just played team ball, that’s all it took.”
The Tigers zoomed to a 22-6 lead before Paulson called a timeout with 8:38 to play in the first half. Stymied by the Tigers’ athleticism on defense, the Fighting Saints, who led the nation in three-point field goal percentage, made just two of their first 17 field goal attempts.
More frustrating to Carroll was forward Match Burnham, who had averaged 25 points per game in the first four games of the tournament, was unable to shake free from the defense of Broderick Jones and Chris Coffey. Burnham missed his first five shots, was called for traveling three times in the first half as he fought for room to shoot or drive. He finished the half with four points on one of eight shooting and ended up with a team-leading 17 points. .
“Their athleticism was a problem,” said Paulson. “We didn’t have a very good start like we’ve been doing. They capitalized on it with an early lead, and it was tough for us to come back.”
Georgetown, on its way to its 10th straight win, led 35-15 at halftime. The Tigers dominated inside, scoring 26 of their 35 points inside the paint and made 15 of 29 from the field. Carroll couldn’t get anything going. The Fighting Saints made just six of 32 shots from the field, including 1 of 14 from three-point range. Georgetown held the rebounding edge 25-15 in the first half,
“I’m so proud of these guys” said Georgetown coach Chris Briggs, who now has won two NAIA titles. “Georgetown College is a special place. There’s a lot of tradition there … I’m blessed to be a part of it. Our guys were focused, and we talked at halftime about keeping our foot on the gas pedal like William Carey (Miss.) did in the semifinal and not give them an opportunity.
“It was a team effort. Guys having fun and guys loving each other. That’s what we’ve got, and we love it.”
Attendance note: The NAIA announced the tournament drew 44,934 for the six days, the largest attendance since 1992 when the tournament was played at Kemper Arena.