Morningside bowed out of the NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship Tournament with a 76-72 first round loss against Oklahoma Wesleyan University.

Kyle Nikkel

Morningside got off to a fast start before Oklahoma Wesleyan’s 3-point shooting began to take its toll when the Mustangs bowed out of the NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship Tournament with a 76-72 first round loss against Oklahoma Wesleyan University on March 13 in Point Lookout, Mo.

The loss ended the Mustangs’ season with a record of 25-9, while Oklahoma Wesleyan, which won the NAIA II National Championship in 2009, will take a 25-9 record into a second round contest against No. 5 Indiana Wesleyan University.

The Mustangs, who entered the contest with a No. 12 national ranking and a 10-game winning streak, rolled to a 19-6 lead five and one-half minutes into the game. The Mustangs still held a double figure lead, 21-11, with less than 10 minutes left in the half before the Eagles closed out the half with a 28-12 scoring run to take a 39-33 lead into the intermission.

The Eagles scored 21 of their first half points from the 3-point arc, where they made seven of 15 attempts. Oklahoma Wesleyan, which finished the contest with 14 treys in 32 attempts for 43.8 percent, eventually opened a 12-point lead, 59-47, with 12:29 left before the Mustangs came roaring back.

Morningside went on a 21-8 scoring run over the next nine minutes to regain the lead at 68-67 when Kyle Nikkel made a pair of free throws with 3:18 left in the game. The Mustangs’ lead lasted all of 18 seconds before Josh Young struck from 3-point range to put Oklahoma Wesleyan back in front 70-68 with three minutes left. Devin Harris made a 3-pointer on Oklahoma Wesleyan’s next possession to make it 73-68 with 2:01 left and the Eagles led by at least three points the rest of the way.

The loss overshadowed a big performance by the Mustangs’ Kyle Nikkel, who drilled 10 of 13 floor shots to lead Morningside with 20 points. Nikkel also topped the Mustangs with seven rebounds and two blocked shots.

Danny Rudeen

Danny Rudeen was next on the Mustangs’ scoring ladder with 17 points. Steve O’Neill also scored in double figures with 13 points, followed by Andrew Christen with nine and Tanner Miller with eight.

Rudeen, the second leading scorer in Morningside history, finished his career with 1,972 points to finish 15 shy of the Mustangs’ all-time scoring record of 1,987 points held by 2006 graduate Brad Schmit. Rudeen also just missed Morningside’s single-season scoring record. He closed out the campaign with 695 points, one shy of Chris Kuhlmann’s school record of 696 points in 1990-91.

Harris scored a game-high 28 points behind a 10-for-17 shooting performance to lead a group of four Oklahoma Wesleyan players in double figures. Young made four of eight 3-point shots to finish with 16 points, followed by Phillip Jahn with 12 and Tyler Woods with 10.

Steven Cooks grabbed a game-high nine rebounds to lead Oklahoma Wesleyan to a slight 36-33 advantage on the boards.

Harris added a game-high six assists to his game scoring honors.

Miller paced the Mustangs with five assists and Morningside’s Ryan Tegtmeier led all performers with four steals.

Morningside made 28 of 62 field goal attempts for 45.2 percent and converted nine of 11 free throw attempts. Oklahoma Wesleyan made 26 of 57 floor shots for 45.6 percent and 10 of 13 free throw bids. The difference was at the 3-point arc, where the Eagles made 14 of 32 attempts for 45.6 percent compared to a chilly seven-for-30 for 23.3 percent showing by the Mustangs.