10th-ranked Northwestern outscored Bellevue 26-6 over the final 10+ minutes to earn a 75-62 come-from-behind win in the first round of the NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship held at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.
The win puts the Red Raiders into the second round in back-to-back seasons as they advance to play seventh-ranked / No.2 seed University of Saint Francis (Ind.) at noon on Friday, March 9.
The Red Raiders overcame a 12-point, first-half deficit and fell behind by seven (56-49) with just under 11 minutes left to play following a 12-0 Bellevue run. Northwestern responded by scoring the next eight points, six by Nathan Wedel, to get the lead back, 57-56. Bruins guard Jalen Hall scored on a lay-up moments later, giving Bellevue its final lead at the 6:40 mark. From that point, it was all Northwestern as Wedel scored again, putting his team in front for good and trigger a 12-2 surge. Defensively, coach Korver’s squad gave up just three field goals over the final 10+ minutes.
Colton Kooima scored a game-high 30 points on 10-for-21 shooting. The senior, who went 6-for-6 from the free throw line, now has eight games this season with 30 or more points. Wedel added 24 points to go with 11 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season. Steven Kragt added a career-high nine points and Parker Mulder matched his career high with nine rebounds.
Northwestern shot 47% for the game, 30% from the arc (6/20), and held 39-34 edge on the boards after getting outrebounded by eight at the half.
Following the Red Raiders first basket of the game, it was Bellevue who was in control, surging ahead 15-4 at the 16-minute mark. The teams traded baskets for nearly the rest of the first half until Northwestern went on a slight run to close the game to get the score within six, 42-36. Bellevue shot very well in the opening half, making 5-for-12 three-point attempts (42%) compared to 11% (9%) by NWC.
A 13-2 Northwestern run put Korver’s squad in front early in the second half (49-44), delighting the huge Red Raider fan-base. The resilient Bruins came back, however, with a 12-0 run, their last big surge of the game at the 11-minute mark.
Bellevue cooled off considerably in the second half, making only 1-of-16 three-pointers, and shooting 38% for the game. Richard Reed scored 13 and Jalen Hall added 12 for the Bruins, who end the season with a 21-12 record.