Point Lookout, Mo. – Hitting 58 percent (19-for-33) of its second-half shots and scoring 46 points after the halftime break, the No. 6 seeded Saint Xavier University men's basketball team pulled away for an 82-60 win over unseeded University of Saint Mary (Kan.) in the first round of the 22nd Annual NAIA Division II Men's Basketball National Championship to wrap up the first day of action at the Keeter Gymnasium on the campus of College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Mo. Playing in its first NAIA Division II National Championship after moving down from NAIA Division I this season, SXU wasted little time after jumping out to a 16-5 lead on a run capped by a basket by junior guard Brad Karp (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso). Senior point guard Roosevelt Green (Markham, Ill./Tinley Park) led five Cougars in double figures with 18 points, while dishing out a game-high six assists.
Karp dropped in 15 points and both senior point guard Anthony Grant (Calumet City, Ill./Prairie State CC/Thornridge) and sophomore guard Jack Krieger (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield North) scored 12. Freshman forward Tony Core (Matteson, Ill./Tinley Park) provided a huge momentum boost for Saint Xavier in the second half coming in early in the frame to net 11 points off the bench. The Cougars shot 49 percent (33-for-68) from the field for the game. After building a 26-15 advantage, Saint Mary charged back with an 8-0 run and trailed by just three, 31-28, with less than two minutes left in the first half. However, SXU got a three-pointer by Green and a bucket at the buzzer by Grant to score the final five points of the half and took a 36-28 lead into halftime.
Saint Xavier rattled off four straight points to open the second half and took a double-digit lead early in the frame. The Spires kept it close and cut it to eight points, 47-39, after a three-pointer by senior guard Kevin Harvey. The Cougars answered the call though and responded with an 11-2 surge to put the game out of reach. One of the key highlights of the big run was a key three-point play by Core. Saint Mary shot just 31 percent (20-for-64) for the game and was led by senior forward Matt Heydman with 18 points. Saint Mary finishes the season with a 22-9 overall record.
Saint Xavier improves to 29-5 overall and will now play No. 11 seeded Indiana University-Southeast (Ind.) in second round action on Friday, March 8, at 4 p.m. The 32-team, single elimination tournament concludes Tuesday, March 12, with the championship game to tip-off at 8 p.m.