It took the NAIA’s top 1-2 scoring combination to end Columbia College’s dream season.
LSU Shreveport forward Brandon Davis and guard Rodney Milum combined for 51 points, and the unseeded Pilots defeated top-seeded and previously unbeaten Columbia (Mo.,) College 79-78 in the quarterfinals of the NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament at Municipal Auditorium.
Columbia, 35-1, was the only unbeaten men’s college basketball team in the country and was bidding to become the third undefeated team to win the NAIA championship and first since Oklahoma City in 1992.
But Davis, with 27 points and Milum, with 24, helped LSU Shreveport overcome a 57-48 deficit with 12 minutes to play, and the Pilots, in their ninth straight trip to the tournament, advanced to the NAIA Final Four for the first time in school history. The Pilots will play Georgetown (Ky.) College at 8 on Monday night.
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The Cougars, trailing 77-76 with 10.8 seconds to play, had a chance to pull out their second nail-biter in two nights, but guard Wendell Crowder’s three-pointer from the corner missed. LSU Shreveport’s Tevin Hall put the game away with two free throws with 2.5 seconds remaining before Columbia’s Tanner Sutton closed the scoring with a half-court, three-pointer as the buzzer sounded.
“It was set up exactly the way we needed to set it up,” said Columbia coach Bob Burchard. “We had the people we wanted on the floor. Crowder took the shot, and that’s where he hits it from. Everything went as planned, except the ball didn’t go in the hole.”
LSU Shreveport entered the tournament as the NAIA’s top-scoring team, averaging 92.5 points per game, while Columbia was the top defensive team, allowing but 56 points per game — or five more than what Milum, the nation’s second-leading scorer (22.8) and Davis (21.8) scored on Saturday.
“It was a tough matchup for us, just size wise,” said Burchard, whose team had not allowed 79 points in a game since 2010. “They’re very athletic, they’ve got guys who can shoot the ball so well. I really thought we had stretches in the game we could get some separation, and all of the sudden something would always happen.”Georgetown (Ky.) 86, Culver-Stockton (Mo.) 82
Thirteenth-seeded Georgetown, making its 32nd appearance in the NAIA Tournament — more than any other program — weathered a first-half, three-point barrage by the Wildcats and advanced to the semifinals for the second straight year.
Georgetown junior guard Monty Wilson’s jumper from the top of the key with 30 seconds to play broke an 84-84 tie and capped a comeback in which the Tigers trailed by as many as 17. After Culver-Stockton’s Austin Keaton missed a three-pointer from the corner, Georgetown’s Allan Thomas put the game away with two free throws.
“I told Coach, I wanted the ball,” said Wilson, who finished with 23 points. “I was feeling it in the second half, and I knew if I had the ball, I had a chance to make it.”
While Georgetown, 26-8, won its 56th NAIA Tournament game, second only to Oklahoma Baptist’s 59, unseeded Culver-Stockton was making its first appearance since 1959.
But the unseeded Wildcats from Canton, Mo., came out firing. They made their first seven shots and 11 of 15 three-pointers in the first half in storming to a 52-37 halftime lead.
The Wildcats, 26-9, were 22-0 this season when leading at halftime.
Georgetown wasn’t rattled, and the Wildcats cooled off in the second half, making just five of 17 from beyond the arc.
“I didn’t know if they ever were going to miss a shot, the way this thing went,” an exhausted Georgetown coach Chris Briggs said of Culver-Stockton, which ranked third in the NAIA in three-point field goals at 10.8 per game. “I’m proud of our guys. An unbelievable comeback We told them at halftime, you’ve got to believe, go out and scrap and fight, and you can get the job done, and they went out and did it.
“We didn’t have great contesting on every one of their shots, but down the stretch, we made the plays we needed to make. Russ Middleton had a heck of a contest of (Keaton’s) last shot in the corner. Every team that wants to do something special has games like that, where they fight back.”
Culver-Stockton guard Marshawn Norris, the Heart of America Athletic Conference Player of the Year, led all scorers with 27 points.