Colin McDonough, Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations
DURHAM, N.C. – The defending NCAA Division II national champion Northwest Missouri State University men’s basketball team gave the Duke Blue Devils everything they could Saturday night and delighted the Bearcat contingent who trekked to Cameron Indoor Stadium with a strong finish in a 69-63 exhibition game loss.
“They earned the experience,” head coach Ben McCollum said after the game. “That’s what’s neat about it is they earned the chance to play here and the chance to compete, and they gave it everything they got tonight. I’m very proud of our kids. They’re tough kids.”
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said, “We beat an outstanding team tonight. They’re accustomed to winning basketball games. Great crowd. They have a great following.”
Trailing 58-41 with 5:39 left to play, sophomore guard Trevor Hudgins knocked down a pair of free throws and then hit a three-pointer on the next Northwest possession to give the Bearcats some momentum. Junior forward Ryan Hawkins followed with a steal and layup and then hit a corner three-pointer, forcing Duke to take a timeout with 4:20 left and a 62-49 lead.
Sophomore guard Diego Bernard, who fouled out of the game, scored his only points on a put back off a Hudgins three-point attempt to make it 64-51 with 2:59 left. With the Bearcats picking up their pace, Hudgins made three three-pointers and Hawkins added one to keep things interesting, cutting the Blue Devils’ lead to 68-63 with 24 seconds left before Duke added a free throw for the final score.
Hudgins, who was the game’s high scorer with 27, got the Bearcats to within four points of the lead when he opened the second half with a layup. Duke led 28-22 at halftime, but the teams tied for points in the second half with 41 apiece.
The Bearcats held two leads in the first half after Duke controlled the opening tip. Hawkins found senior guard Kirk Finley under the basket for a layup one minute and 18 seconds into the contest to give the Bearcats the early 0-2 lead, but Duke tied the score on a steal and fast-break dunk, which started an 11-0 run for the Blue Devils.
After a series of turnovers by both teams, freshman forward Wes Dreamer hit his first shot as a Bearcat, knocking down a three-pointer to make the score 11-8. The teams exchanged layups and senior forward Ryan Welty tied the game at 13 on a second-chance three-pointer at the 9:33 mark in the first half.
Duke retook the lead, 15-13, on a layup by Matthew Hurt, and the Bearcats responded with Hudgins hitting a three-pointer with 7:03 in the first half to give Northwest a 15-16 lead.
Northwest shot 44 percent from three-point range, but Duke used its size to its advantage and out-rebounded the ‘Cats, 44-34. The Blue Devils also stepped to the free throw line 22 times, while the Bearcats got there just four times.
Hawkins finished with 16 points and Welty had 11 as both played all 40 minutes.
The contest marked the second time Northwest opened its exhibition season at Duke. After Northwest’s 2017 NCAA Division II national championship, the Bearcats met the Blue Devils Oct. 27, 2017 at Cameron Indoor. Duke posted a 93-60 victory over Northwest in that matchup.
The Bearcats own a record of 100-5 since the start of the 2016-17 season. Northwest went 35-1 in 2016-17 and won the national title. The Bearcats went 27-4 in 2017-18, before going 38-0 and winning their second national crown last season.
Northwest is picked to win the MIAA in the conference’s preseason coaches and media polls.