Colin McDonough, Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations
MARYVILLE – The No. 1-ranked Northwest Missouri State University men’s basketball team secured the program’s fourth trip to the Elite Eight with an 82-70 victory over Missouri Southern State University in the NCAA Central Region final Tuesday in Bearcat Arena.
Sophomore Ryan Hawkins tallied a game-high 28 points as Northwest improved to 35-0 on the season.
Hawkins carried the offense early by scoring the first 13 points of the game for the Bearcats. While Hawkins was firing on all cylinders, Missouri Southern was doing the same and built an 18-11 advantage with 11:36 to play in the first half.
“I thought the putback bucket by Hawkins was a big one for us,” Northwest head coach Ben McCollum said. “That kind of ignited us and got us going after Southern came out and had a lead.”
Hawkins rebound and score off a three-point miss from redshirt freshman Trevor Hudgins ignited an 8-0 run that gave Northwest a 19-18 lead with 9:05 left before halftime.
The Bearcats other Ryan then started to heat up. Junior Ryan Welty buried three straight three-pointers on Northwest’s next three possessions. Following Welty’s third triple, Northwest held a 28-22 lead with 3:13 to play before intermission. Northwest would take a 33-24 lead into the locker room.
A pair of Hudgins free throws to open the second half put the margin into double figures where it would stay until a layup from MSSU’s Kinzer Lambert trimmed the lead to nine at 65-56 with 2:36 to play. But Northwest was able to make 13-of-14 free throws in the final 1:19 to clinch the region title.
Northwest will travel to Evansville, Indiana, and take part in the NCAA Elite Eight March 27-30. Northwest will be the No. 1 seed and will take on Mercyhurst on Wed., March 27, at 2:30 p.m. in The Ford Center.
NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Championship Website
1. Northwest Missouri State
2. West Texas A&M
3. Queens (NC)
4. Nova Southeastern
5. St. Anselm
6. Point Loma
7. Southern Indiana
The schedule for Wednesday’s quarterfinals will be:
NCAA Central Region All-Tournament Team
Kevin Buckingham (Southeastern)
Noah Starkey (Southern Nazarene)
Cam Martin (Missouri Southern)
Kinzer Lambert (Missouri Southern)
Ryan Hawkins (Northwest Mo. St.)
Joey Witthus (Northwest Mo. St.)
NOTES: Northwest earned previous trips to the Elite Eight in 2002, 2004 and 2017 … Northwest captured the NCAA Division II national championship in 2017 … Northwest improved to 17-0 at home and the Bearcats have won 66 of their last 68 home games … Northwest’s 35 wins equal the school record of wins in a season (previously set in 2016-17) … Joey Witthus has made 108 three-pointers this season equaling the school record set by Zach Schneider in 2016-17) … Trevor Hudgins set the Northwest single-season assist record and has accumulated 190 on the season … Witthus has scored 731 points this season and needs 23 more points to equal the school record for points in a season set by Justin Pitts (754 pts.) set in 2016-17.