Late run pushes Metro State past Franklin Pierce, into national semifinals
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- No. 3 Metro State outscored Franklin Pierce (N.H.) 16-2 during the final four minutes to overcome a one-point deficit and grab a 78-65 win in the NCAA Division II Elite Eight quarterfinals on Thursday at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky.
The Roadrunners improved to 31-2 overall this season, while the Ravens ended their season at 24-9.
Metro State overcame a poor shooting day by committing just five turnovers, while forcing 14 to outscore FPU 18-3 on points off turnovers. MSU Denver shot 41.2 percent from the floor and just 6-of-18 (.333) from the outside.
Sophomore Nicholas Kay led all scorers with 19 points, the third time in the past four games he has tied a season high with 19. He also had a career-high 13 rebounds for his fifth career double-double.
Brandon Jefferson and Mitch McCarron provided 16 points each, both shooting 6-of-14 from the floor. Jefferson added eight rebounds, five assists and three steals and McCarron had six rebounds and three assists.
Jonathan Morse provided 10 points and four rebounds despite shooting just 3-of-10 from the floor. He scored eight of his points during a five-minute stretch during the second half after getting into foul trouble early.
Demetrius Miller scored nine and Tyler Cooper scored a season-high eight points off the bench.
Metro State shot just 38.9 percent in the first half, but led 35-30 at the break after forcing seven turnovers, leading to an 11-2 points off turnovers advantage.
MSU-Denver led by as many as seven points at 22-15 with 9:22 left in the half before a 7-0 Ravens run tied it at 22-22 with 6:21 to go. The Roadrunners went over four minutes without a field goal before Cooper's second 3-pointer of the first half ended the drought for a 27-24 lead with 4:57 remaining before half. Metro State scored two baskets in the final 1:25 and held FPU scoreless during the time to pull away.
McCarron led all scorers with 11 points at halftime on 5-of-8 shooting. Cooper and Kay had eight each.
The Roadrunners jumped out to a 42-34 lead three minutes into the second half, but FPU fought back and slowly clawed back, taking its first and only lead of the second half at 63-62 with 5:08 left after back-to-back 3-point field goals.
MSU-Denver answered with six unanswered points, starting on a layup by Kay and a step-back jumper by Jefferson to take a 66-63 lead.
After both teams traded baskets, McCarron buried a 3-pointer from the right corner for a 73-65 lead, with just 1:21 remaining on the clock. The lead was stretched to 11 after two free throws from McCarron and one from Kay with just over a minute left. A basket by Kay in the final minute provided the last score of the contest.
Metro State will face the winner of No. 1 West Liberty (W.Va.) and Winona State (Minn.) at noon ET on Saturday. That game will be televised live at 10 a.m. MT on Altitude.