Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball team and Lindenwood played a classic game early Saturday evening at Bearcat Arena that was a prime example of what makes NCAA Division II basketball so thrilling in February.
Throughout the country, teams are playing to finish first or in the upper half of their conference and position themselves for a high regional ranking to be one of 64 teams selected in March to be in the Division II national tournament.
Lindenwood traveled to Maryville, Missouri, knowing it needed to win to stay close to the Bearcats. Northwest held a two-game lead over the Lions in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association.
After Northwest’s 75-73 victory over Lindenwood, Northwest fans and players were buzzing about the performance of Lindenwood senior Cory Arentsen. He finished with 46 points and went eight for 12 from three-point range.
“Cory Arentsen is such a great competitor,” Lindenwood coach Lance Randall said. “He stepped up. He didn’t have one of his best games Thursday. I knew he was going to be locked in and have a great game today. This was far above and beyond any coach’s expectation. He was virtually unstoppable.”
The offensive execution in the final 4 minutes was amazing. Northwest went up 66-60 and Arentsen made a bucket. Northwest scored again and Arentsen hit a three-pointer, closing to 68-65.
“He was hitting insane shots,” said Northwest sophomore point guard Justin Pitts, who finished with 27 points on 10 of 15 shooting from the field.
Northwest went back up six on a three-pointer by Zach Schneider and with Northwest leading 73-67, Arentsen made a three-pointer. He made his last one when Northwest held a 75-70 lead.
“We couldn’t get enough stops,” Randall said. “We have been one of the top 10 defensive teams in the country. Credit to Northwest. They are big play makers. Justin Pitts is a phenomenal point guard. They have so many good guys and role players around him who know what they are supposed to do and they hit big shots.”
Lindenwood had a chance to win in the final second. With .9 seconds left, the Lions in-bounded the ball underneath their basket. Arentsen curled off a screen, caught the ball and fired up a three-point shot that bounced off the side of the rim.
“That was probably as good as I have seen,” Northwest coach Ben McCollum said of Arentsen’s performance. “He was well defended. We let him get loose early, and once he got going, you are not going to stop him.
“You can’t really run guys at him because he is a really good passer, too. You hope that he can’t score 50. Fortunately, he didn’t get 50 because they would have won the game.”
Because of the win, Northwest has a firm hold on first place. With five conference games remaining, Northwest is 17-5 overall and 14-3 in the MIAA. The Bearcats have a three-game lead over Lindenwood, which dropped to 15-8 and 11-6.
“We just have to compete. Our kids are mature enough to understand we are trying to win and continue to grow, get better and hopefully be ready for postseason,” McCollum said.
Competing is what Randall wants his team to do, also. There are no easy games left for the Lions.
“This conference is loaded,” Randall said. “There are no bad teams. We are one of two conferences in the country with 14 teams and all in one division. It is just a grind to go through.
“For us, you can’t worry at this stage about winning conference. We have to lock in and get better. There are still a half dozen teams in our conference capable of getting into the NCAA Tournament right now. You got to put yourself in position to be one of those teams.”
No. 1 Augustana quickly bounces back after a Friday road loss
Before hitting the road for away games at Northern State on Friday and at No. 8 Minnesota State Moorhead on Saturday, Augustana coach Tom Billeter was concerned about Northern State.
It was easy for just about everybody else to think Moorhead was the tougher opponent because Moorhead already had over 20 victories.
Well, Northern State snapped Augustana’s 19 game winning streak with a 90-81 victory.
Augustana, though, has the type of leadership and chemistry from players like seniors Daniel Jansen, Casey Schilling and Alex Richter and junior Adam Beyer to quickly regroup and focus squarely on the next game.
The Vikings did exactly that with a 94-86 victory at Moorhead. In the win, Schilling scored 26 points, Jansen had 25 and sophomore guard Jordan Spencer finished with 23.
It has been that type of team chemistry that has made this season so much fun for Jansen.
“It is amazing,” Jansen said. “You couldn’t ask for more in your last year. You see everybody has bought in and are playing their butts off as a team.
“We do have good chemistry. Jordan Spencer and Adam Beyer at the guard position do a great job of getting everybody involved. They are great passers. They know their role and they are good at it. As a team, we are all locked in. We know what our goal is for this season.”
Philadelphia women’s basketball coach Tom Shirley gets 700th career win
Philadelphia University women’s basketball head coach Tom Shirley became the third coach in NCAA Division II history to record 700 career victories as the Rams won 59-54 at Dominican (N.Y.) in a Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference contest in the Hennessy Center on Saturday afternoon.
Shirley, who is 24th in NCAA women’s basketball in career wins, is now 700-326 in his 35-year career, 551-253 with Philadelphia University. He went 149-73 in eight seasons at DeSales University, his alma mater.
Philadelphia, 17-6 overall and 13-1 in CACC, secured a home game for the opening round of the CACC Tournament.
Special day of basketball at Barry University
On a day Barry University granted a wish to a local Make-A-Wish kid, the 17th-ranked Buccaneers delivered the goods in a 116-92 win over Palm Beach Atlantic on Homecoming Saturday.
It was the sixth time Barry men’s basketball team has scored over 100 points this season, setting a school record. It also marked the Buccaneers fifth straight win, and signaled a bit of revenge for an earlier loss to the Sailfish this season. Barry also tied a school record with 46 field goals, going 46 of 81 from the floor.
Barry, 17-3 overall, took over sole possession of first place in the Sunshine State Conference. Barry will play host Florida Tech at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Barry’s Yunio Barueta scored a career-high 41 points, marking the second time he's went for 40 this season. He was 16 of 25 from the floor, and had eight rebounds. Barrueta was 8 of 14 from three-point range. Tray Leonard recorded his fifth straight double-double, matching a career-high with 18 points and pulling down a career-best 16 boards.
Barry honored Palm Beach's Jonathan, a 17-year-old battling Cystic Fibrosis, as its Sixth Man, presenting him with a personalized jersey. His wish was also granted as he was able to go on stage with DJ Laz and Kimberly Bell during the Homecoming festivities. At a Make-A-Wish Reveal before the game, he was presented with his own deejay equipment. Barry is one of the nation's leaders in Make-A-Wish fundraising efforts.