Point Lookout, Mo. - Despite a combined 35 points from senior guard Brad Karp (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso) and junior guard Jack Krieger (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield North), the No. 6 ranked Saint Xavier University men's basketball team had a tough end to its stellar season falling 64-61 to No. 10 Midland University (Neb.) in the second round of the 2014 NAIA Division II Men's Basketball National Championship Friday in Point Lookout, Mo. Krieger finished with 18 points to lead the Cougars, while Karp chipped in 17 points and pulled down seven rebounds. SXU had a tough first half and trailed by 14 points (37-23) at the half, but rallied back late in the second half cutting the deficit to a point multiple times before falling by three. Sophomore forward Josh Mawhorr (Muncie, Ind./Muncie Central) also played well for the Cougars just missing a double-double with 10 points and team-best eight rebounds.
Saint Xavier charged out of the gate with a 7-3 lead on a layup by Karp. Midland began to chip away and would go up by as many as six points after Brandon Williams converted a three-point play on a foul at the 8:42 mark. The two teams traded baskets and the lead until a pair of free throws by Krieger knotted the game up at 21-21 with 4:30 left in the half. The Warriors exploded during the final minutes of the half scoring 12 unanswered points over the course of a 16-2 run heading into the locker room. Five different Midland players scored during that spurt which gave the Warriors a 37-23 advantage at halftime.
A three-point shot by Ben Imig at the 14:14 mark in the second half were the senior's first points of the game and padded Midland's lead to 48-33. Two minutes later, Marcus Franklin's sweeping layup gave the Warriors a 16-point lead. The Cougars responded with three-pointers on back-to-back possessions that finally sparked their stagnant offense. Karp proceeded to connect from downtown as well, cutting the SXU deficit to seven points, 55-48, with nine minutes to play. With 4:38 left in the game, it was another three-ball from Kreiger that brought the Cougars to within two.
Saint Xavier had a chance to tie the game from the free throw line, but senior point guard Michael Simpson (North Chicago, Ill./Cardinal Stritch/North Chicago) missed a pair. Karp put the pressure on Midland however, as his short jumper with 2:06 on the clock made it a 57-56 game. Galen Gullie connected on a huge shot from beyond the arch to push Midland's lead back to four points on the next possession. Trailing by one, SXU went up the court with a chance to take the lead on the game's final possession, but Alex Starkel came up with a block for the Warriors to preserve the 60-59 lead with 11 seconds to play. Gullie went on to sink all of his free throws to close out the game and seal a 64-61 victory for Midland.
"This tournament is all about toughness and energy level, and through the first two games I couldn't be more pleased with how our guys have performed," said head coach Todd Eisner. "Saint Xavier is unbelievable offensively, and they really made us battle today. Credit them with how poorly we played offensively in the second half as they made a run and gave us all we could handle.
The Warriors shot 47 percent from the field in the game and went 13-19 from the free throw line. Saint Xavier struggled from the floor, shooting just 35 percent on the day after going just 6-for-24 (25 percent) in the first half. Starkel was Midland's leading scorer on the game with 14 points. Franklin and Gullie contributed 12 points each, and Williams added nine points with seven rebounds.
Saint Xavier closes its impressive season with a 30-5 record. Karp finishes his stellar career as No. 4 on the Illinois career scoring list with 2,889 points surpassing Matt Laur from McKendree University (Ill.) in today's game. Laur tallied 2,874 in his career with the Bearcats. Karp's 1,053 career rebounds rank him No. 2 all-time at SXU as well.
Portions of this press release provided by NAIA Sports Information