Kansas City, Mo.–Welcome to the Big Time, Statesmen! Playing in its first NAIA Division I National Championship game in historic Kansas City Municipal Auditorium, the William Penn men’s basketball team did enough to march on to the second round with an 85-77 win over #6 seed Montana Western Wednesday.
The third-seeded Statesmen (28-6) will now play #2 seed Columbia (Mo) Friday at 2:15 p.m.in the Naismith Bracket. The navy and gold most recently fell 68-64 to Columbia back in 2002-2003.
With the win, WPU has tied its second-highest win total in program history. Despite leading for the entire second half, the Statesmen were not out of the woods until the final seconds.
William Penn overcame foul trouble (six players with at least three, two fouled out) and a rough showing from behind the arc (5-for-25) by owning a 42.3%-37.7% shooting edge. The victors also bettered the Bulldogs (19-13) on the glass 47-40, including a 13-6 mark in second-chance points.
WPU committed three more turnovers than UMW, but was more opportunistic with a 17-14 advantage in points off turnovers.
The Bulldogs, paced by 31 points (seven three-pointers) from Connor Woodill, used a more proficient deep ball (9-for-22 overall) to pull out to a 17-11 lead at the 11:44 point.
The Statesmen stayed close and eventually took the lead back a few minutes later. Unfortunately, Montana Western went on a 7-0 run to go back up 33-32 late in the first half. The final two minutes were owned by William Penn, however, to go up 41-35 entering halftime.
The navy and gold led by at least five points during the entire last 20 minutes, including by as many as 16 points. UMW kept hanging around, but could not get over the hump and the Statesmen avoided the upset.
In the end, the biggest difference-maker came at the charity stripe as William Penn was 20-for-26, while the Bulldogs struggled to the tune of 16-for-32.
Brady Burford (Sr., Chicago, Ill., Physical Education) did not let a minor injury in the second half slow him down, going 7-for-13 from the field for a team-high 17 points. He also stole two passes.
In Burford’s absence, Jarvis Haywood (Jr., Charlotte, N.C., Business Management) stepped up and scored all 14 of his points after intermission.
Steven Roundtree (Sr., Jacksonville, Fla., Physical Education), with a quiet double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds, and Kevin Smith (Jr., Baltimore, Md., Physical Education), with 11 points off the bench, were next on the scoring list.
Jessie Pernell (Sr., North Augusta, S.C., Physical Education) added 10 points with six assists and two thefts, while Shane Bosek(Sr., Lowry, Minn., Physical Education), highlighted by seven straight points in the second period, also reached double figures with 10.
Josh Caldwell (Sr., Denver, Colo., Physical Education) contributed eight points and four blocks, and Jeff Drew (Sr., Little Rock, Ark., Sociology) tallied three blocked shots as well.
“Our bench was incredible tonight, on both ends of the floor,” Head Coach John Henry said. “We did not play our best game, but did enough to advance. While it is nice to reach the second round, our guys have already said that this is not our end goal.”
“We want to thank our crowd and the pep band for providing a great atmosphere,” Henry added. “They really helped us during the night.”
The next game on the slate for the Statesmen is a Round of 16 battle with Columbia of Missouri, who defeated LSU-Shreveport last night, 94-68. Columbia is the #2 seed in the Naismith Bracket, and is currently 29-5.
You can hear that game live on 99.5 FM/740 AM KMZN, as well as the KMZN mobile app, and radiokmzn.com. The pregame will start around 2 PM, with the tip-off occurring around 2:15 PM from the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City.
Story provided by Wade Steinlage