Statesmen Stave Off Upset Bid by McPherson, 71-65
Point Lookout, Mo.–The William Penn men’s basketball team finally flipped the proverbial monkey off its back with a 71-65 first-round win over a pesky McPherson (Kan.) squad in the NAIA Division II National Championships Wednesday.
The top-seeded Statesmen (31-1) shot just 36.9%, but had enough in the tank to get its first win in the NAIA Championships (1-3 all-time). They now advance to meet #17 seed Bethel (Ind.) in the ‘Sweet 16’ Friday at noon. The Pilots won 73-49 over #16 Embry-Riddle (Fla.) in its opening matchup. Five of Wednesday’s eight games were won by the lower seeds, highlighted by #3 Northwood (Fla.) falling to host school College of the Ozarks (Mo.) 57-49.
William Penn led early but struggled from the field and trailed 30-25 at halftime. The navy and gold fell behind by as much as seven early in the second stanza before finally getting a grip on the contest and taking the lead back for good at 45-44 with 11:23 left.
The advantage grew to six twice, but the Bulldogs (15-18), who ran the table in the KCAC Tournament to earn its bid, refused to go away.
The top seed was led by Brandon Beasley (Sr., Indianapolis, Ind., Physical Education), a game-time decision with an injury suffered earlier in the week. The senior stepped up in what could have been his last collegiate game, scoring 23 points with 14 rebounds for his 14th double-double. He also stole three passes.
Joining him in double figures was Keith Steffeck (Sr., Marion, Iowa, Physical Education) with 19 points.
James Devlin (Sr., Tampa, Fla., Sociology) added nine points, but failed to hit a three-pointer. He was not alone as the Statesmen were just 3-of-16 from behind the arc. The senior dished out six assists in the win.
Blake Walker (Jr., Rose Garden, Ga., Physical Education) managed seven points, while Arman Rasul (Sr., Chicago, Ill., Sociology), who was playing for first time since January 19, contributed six points.
Both sides got into a bit of foul trouble, including Beasley and Devlin with four harms apiece. William Penn was a bit better at the charity stripe with a 24-16 edge in made free throws. The nation’s best rebounding squad did it again Wednesday with a 46-32 advantage on the glass.
The teams combined for only 21 turnovers (11 for WPU).
“(Assistant trainer) Chad Derby was the MVP for us today,” Head Coach John Henry said. “He got Brandon and Arman healthy enough to play. We all thought Brandon was not going to play after his injury, but Chad worked hard and got it done for us!”
“McPherson reminded me a lot of us at nationals last year,” Henry added. “They were awesome and refused to give in to us. We are excited to finally get a win down here and hopefully we can keep it going Friday.”