Fort Lewis explodes past Mines
MANKATO, Minn. -- Fort Lewis College (24-7 overall) exploded for 48 second-half points and finally found their 3-point touch as they advanced to the NCAA Division II Sweet Sixteen for the first time in school history by defeating Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference rival Colorado Mines (25-6) 77-65 in the semifinals of the NCAA Division II Central Regionals at Minnesota State's Taylor Center.
Trailing 45-44 midway through the second half, the Skyhawks went on a 17-2 run to take control of the game. Head coach Bob Hofman chose an unusually small lineup during this stretch: Kyle Behrens, Connor Drumm, David Kanyinda, DeAndre Lansdowne and Daniel Steffensen, none of whom is taller than 6-foot-5.
“If you look at that stretch it's our seniors: Connor, David getting hot and DeAndre being DeAndre,” said associate head coach Bob Pietrack. “We went really small there for a little bit and it worked out. Drumm stepped up huge in that stretch. David's a sharp shooter and a wild card. He was the joker tonight.”
Kanyinda hit a 3-pointer to give FLC a 47-45 lead with 11:18 remaining in the game. Drumm followed with a pair of free throws, answered by two from CSM's Dale Minschwaner. Kanyinda then knocked in his second trey of the half and a midrange jumper. Drumm and Behrens combined for four consecutive free throws. Then Kanyinda iced it with another bomb.
Four minutes. Seventeen points. Once trailing 45-44, the Skyhawks were now up 61-47 and tasting their fifth consecutive playoff win - three in last week's RMAC Shootout, two in the Central Regionals.
Free-throw shooting - which a few weeks ago seemed to be FLC's biggest weakness - was one of two areas in which the Skyhawks shined.
“We've had some games this year where free throws have been our Achilles' heel,” said Pietrack. “To go 21-for-26 and make some big ones down the stretch was awesome.”
The other area that Pietrack pointed to as a key to success was rebounding, which FLC won 35-29. “Mines is right there with Mesa and Metro as the best rebounding team (in the RMAC),” he said. “It took a complete effort from the whole group.”
Behrens led the way with nine caroms, while Matt Morris and Lansdowne each snared six errant shots.
“We've been talking a lot since the conference tournament about having a collective will to win,” said Pietrack.
Drumm echoed his sentiments.
“It's definitely a milestone for Fort Lewis basketball,” said the senior reserve, known more for his hustle and defense than his scoring touch. “I think momentum is the biggest thing. It started with three big wins in the RMAC tournament.”
Lansdowne, a second team All-Central Region and first team All-RMAC pick, led the way with 18 points and three steals. He scored 14 of his points in the second stanza by shooting 5-of-9 from the field and 4-of-5 from the charity stripe.
Morris added 15 points and was huge early in the game when FLC built a 17-6 lead before the Orediggers heated up and FLC cooled off.
Mines led 31-29 at intermission and shot a solid 46.4 percent (13 of 28) from the field in the first half. Fort Lewis struggled at just 38.7 percent (12 of 31). Neither team could shoot from behind the arc in the opening frame.
Kanyinda finished with 12 points, scoring 11 in the big 17-2 second half run.
RMAC Player of the Year Sean Armstrong led the Orediggers with 19 points and five assists. Drew Hoffman scored 16 and Minschwaner added 12.
The Skyhawks matched a school record by recording 24 wins thus far in 2010-11. Hofman's 2007-08 crew went 24-6, while his 2008-09 team posted a 24-10 mark.