Free Throw Shooting, Rebounding Lead WPU to First-Round Win

Omar Sherman had plenty to celebrate Wednesday

Omar Sherman had plenty to celebrate Wednesday

by Wade Steinlage

Kansas City, Mo.–The Statesmen men’s basketball team shrugged off the critics and naysayers Wednesday and just went about its business, knocking off Vanguard 69-53 in the first round of the NAIA Division I National Championship.

With the ‘upset’ win over the third-seeded Lions (25-7), #6 seed William Penn (22-11), out of the Liston bracket, advances to face #2 seed Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) in Friday’s second round at 2:15 p.m. It will be the first meeting between the two schools in men’s basketball.

Wednesday’s victory marks the sixth-consecutive nationals appearance in which WPU has won at least one game.

Both sides struggled mightily from the field in the early going, missing a combined 13 shots to open the night. With the shots not falling (WPU shot just 21.9% in the first half), the Statesmen found an alternative way to get on the board.

William Penn, which fired only 15 three-pointers, instead chose to attack the rim. They did not finish on a consistent basis, but the navy and gold did draw a large number of fouls, and more importantly, they cashed in on their opportunities. The victors were 14-for-17 at the line in the first half and claimed a 29-28 halftime edge.

Prior to the break, the back-and-forth battle featured five ties and six lead changes. The matchup remained a tight one in the second period, but Mario Manuel (So., Des Moines, Iowa, Sports Management) gave his team the advantage for good at 38-37 with 14:33 to go. The bucket was part of a 7-0 run for the Statesmen.

VU trimmed the margin to two on five separate occasions over the next several minutes. With his team just 52-50 with 5:02 remaining, Omar Sherman (Sr., Duncanville, Texas, Sociology) completely changed the complexion of the battle by slamming home back-to-back dunks. WPU rolled from that point, eventually scoring 13 unanswered points to cruise to victory.

Entering the game, the charity stripe would have been seen as a liability for the navy and gold, shooting just 66.8%. Fortunately, the first-half success was not an anomaly as William Penn went 16-for-21 in the latter stanza and finished 30-for-38 overall. The marks for free throws made and attempted were both season highs.

Not only were they strong at the line, the Statesmen also warmed up from the floor, connecting on 57.9% of their second-half tries. By the final buzzer, WPU had outshot Vanguard 53.3%-31.1%. The Lions matched the victors by struggling behind the arc (4-for-23, 17.4%), but were unable to make up ground at the line either with a discouraging 18.8% clip (3-for-16).

The misfired Vanguard attempts were corralled almost entirely by WPU as it held a 58-36 edge in rebounds, including a 46-23 mark in defensive boards. Despite actually losing the offensive rebounding battle at 13-12, the Statesmen were able to outscore VU 13-9 in second-chance points.

WPU had issues controlling the ball, committing 16 turnovers to only seven for Vanguard; the Lions took advantage with an 11-4 margin in points off mistakes.

Abrian Edwards (Sr., Austin, Texas, Wellness and Recreation) had a strange shooting night, going 1-for-9 from the floor, while ending up 14-for-17 from the line en route to a game-high 16 points. The senior did a little bit of everything, pulling down 10 rebounds and posting eight assists for a near triple-double. He also stole two passes in the win.

Edwards’ 14 made free throws and 17 attempts both tie for the eighth-most in program history.

Sherman, on the other hand, was very efficient, going 5-for-6 from the field and 5-for-7 at the stripe for 15 points. He just missed his own double-double with nine rebounds in addition to two blocks.

Shamar Bailey-DeCoteau (Jr., Toronto, Ontario, Undecided) did join the double-double club, though, scoring 11 points with a game-best 12 rebounds.

Manuel paced the bench with eight points, while the duo of Malyk Thomas (So., Copperas Cove, Texas, Computer Science) and Marlon Alcindor (Sr., Queens, N.Y., Sociology) both contributed six points Wednesday.

“I am so happy for our players,” Head Coach John Henry said. “We were left for dead, but look at us now–in the Sweet Sixteen! I am very happy for all of our coaches as well. They worked so hard on the preparation for this game. This was a great, great, great win!”

Posted by on Mar 21 2019. Filed under College Sports, Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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