Kansas City, MO – The top-ranked Generals faced a bit of adversity, getting down 14 points in the first half to the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, but a big run got LSUA on top, never to look back in a 104-80 win over the Drovers Thursday afternoon in the first round of the 2017 NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship Tournament at Kansas City Municipal Auditorium.
The Generals held an early first half lead as Joseph Feraci’s three put LSUA up 7-4 just more than two minutes into the contest. But a 19-8 run put USAO for nearly the remainder of the period as Imani Edwards took a rebound and went coast-to-coast for a lay-up to put the Drovers up 23-15 with less than 11:00 to go in the half.
USAO would slowly build the lead over the next few minutes as Brendan Chapman’s fast break basket grew the Drovers’ lead to double digits at 34-24 with 7:00 left. USAO’s lead would peak at 14 points on Imani Edwards’ three pointer to make it 42-28.
But that’s where the Generals drew the line in the sand and started the game’s big run as Evan Smith’s three ball on the ensuing LSUA possession started a half-ending 19-2 run. Hayward Register gave the Generals all the momentum going into the break as he tied the game at 44-44 with an elbow right jumper that he banked in off the glass with less than 2:00 to go in the half. Both teams struggled to break the deadlock, it was Register who would ring up long distance with time running out to give LSUA the 47-44 lead at the horn.
The run continued to run out of the half, as LSUA’s lead hit double-digits before the Drovers could muster any kind of response. Brandon Moss stole the ball and fed Hayward Register down the court for the lay-up to put the Generals up 57-45 and cap the 29-3 run. USAO would cut that lead in half on Taran Buie’s bucket that pulled the Drovers to within 60-54.
As the lead seesawed between seven and 11 points, a Brandon Moss free throw put the Generals up double figures to stay for the rest of the contest. That free throw also started a 17-2 run LSUA run that put the game out of reach for the Drovers as a Moss lay-up pushed the score to 92-68 with 4:00 to go in the game. The LSUA lead would peak at 27 points on a Chris Vickers bucket with less than ten second left to make it 104-77.
“We know USAO would give us a tough test because they have two of the best guards in the nation,” said LSUA head coach Larry Cordaro. “We did a good job of mixing up our defense in the second half to give them different looks and confuse them. I also have to credit our guys for not starting to rush when we got down double digits and played within our system to go on the big run that got us the lead. We stopped settling for threes and started playing to our advantage inside. It’s good to get win number one and get that confidence going into the next game tomorrow evening.”
Brian Sylvester and Brandon Moss each scored a team-high 18 points to lead LSUA, while both also collected double-doubles as Moss grabbed a team high 12 boards and Sylvester grabbed ten. It was Moss’s sixth double-double on the season and Sylvester’s team-leading ninth. Hayward Register finished with 17 points, including several key buckets during the big run to put LSUA in the lead. Jordin Williams finished with 15 points.
The Generals (32-0) move into Friday’s second round where they’ll meet up with #19 Westmont College. The fifth-seeded Warriors upset #14 and four-seed William Carey 74-60 right before the LSUA game to advance in the tournament. The Generals and Warriors will play Friday at 4:00 P.M. at the Kansas City Municipal Auditorium.