Sixth-ranked Morningside advanced to the second round of the NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Tournament with an opening round 86-79 triumph against Tabor. Photo / Brian Beard
Sixth-ranked Morningside advanced to the second round of the NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Tournament with an opening round 86-79 triumph against unranked Tabor College on Thursday in Point Lookout, Mo.
The Mustangs, who won for the 15th time in their last 16 games, will take a 28-4 record into a second round matchup with ninth-ranked University of Saint Francis on Friday at noon.
Morningside’s experience paid dividends as its senior-dominated team made the plays down the stretch. The Mustangs trailed 56-51 with less than 10 minutes to play before they outscored the Bluejays 35-23 over the final nine minutes of the game.
Steve O’Neill led the Mustangs in scoring with 26 points. The senior guard made nine of 15 floor shots, including four of six attempts from the 3-point arc. Senior guard Tanner Miller was next with 15 points, all in the second half, while senior center Kyle Nikkel chipped in with 12 points and sophomore guard Ryan Tegtmeier had 11 points along with a game-high seven assists.
Senior forward Andrew Christen grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds and added nine points to finish one tally shy of a double-double.
Andrew Thomas just missed a double-double for Tabor with nine rebounds and a game-high 28 points. Thomas had a near perfect shooting performance as he went nine-for-10 from the field and 10-for-10 from the free-throw line. Dewayne Biggs also had a big game with 22 points and Malik Brooks contributed 12 points off the bench.
Morningside jumped in front to an early 13-6 lead five minutes into the game before it’s shooting went cold. The Mustangs shot just 36.7 percent in the first half and went into the intermission down 34-30.
The Mustang shooters heated up considerably in the second half. Morningside drilled 21 of 34 second half floor shots for a sizzling 61.8 percent to finish the contest at an even 50 percent.
Morningside bombed in eight of 14 3-point field goal attempts in the second half and it was a 3-pointer that gave the Mustangs their first lead of the second half when Storm Throne struck from the arc to give the Mustangs a 62-60 advantage with 7:41 left in the game.
Tabor tied the score at 62-62 on a pair of free throws by Thomas with 6:52 remaining before Miller made a basket with 6:28 left that put the Mustangs ahead to stay at 64-62. Miller’s basket triggered a 16-7 Mustang scoring run that saw them open their largest lead of the game at nine points when a free throw by Nikkel made it 78-69 with 1:31 remaining.