(March 25) -- Saturday's NCAA Division II championship game featured the top two scoring teams in NCAA Division II -- and the action did not disappoint any viewer of this contest.
In only the second championship game in NCAA Division Ii history in which a team scored at least 100 points, both teams cleared the century mark as Nova Southeastern -- the top scoring team in Division II -- beat West Liberty 111-101 to capture the school's first national title in men's basketball. It also allowed the Sharks to become the sixth team to complete a perfect season as it ended the year at 36-0.
Nova Southeastern shot 62.8 percent in the first half and built a 55-48 lead in the process. The 55 points were the most ever in the first half of a championship game, tied the second-most by a team in a half and the 103 scored were the most by two teams in the opening half and the most by two teams ever in any half. Some of those numbers lasted for only a half, as Nova Southeastern outscored West Liberty 56-53 in the second half to tie the record for points in a half by a team and the 109 combined points was the most ever by two teams over a 20-minute period of play.
The title game featured a number of huge individual performances as well. Bryce Butler scored 32 points to lead five Hilltoppers in double figures, but the Sharks had a three-headed monster headed by co-most outstanding players Will Yoakum and RJ Sunahara. Yoakum led the way with 31 points and Sunahara added 28, while a third member of the all-tournament team, Dallas Graziani, finished with 24. They were joined on the all-tournament team by Butler and Black Hills State's Joel Scott.
West Liberty 87, Black Hills State 82
West Liberty, the second seed in the Elite Eight, ran out to a 16-point halftime lead and then had to hold off a late charge by Black Hills State to advance to its second national championship game. The Hilltoppers led 47-31 at the half and led by 18 with just under 14 minutes remaining before the Yellow Jackets started climbing back into the contest. Black HIlls State, behind a 30-point effort by Joel Scott, closed the gap to three in the final minute before Malik McKinney made two free throws to put the game on ice. McKinney and Bryce Butler led a balanced scoring effort for West Liberty, who improved to 32-3 with the win.
Nova Southeastern 94, Cal State San Bernardino 87
Much like the first contest, Nova Southeastern raced out to a sizeable lead in the first half, but the Coyotes cut the lead to five before halftime and turned the second half into a dogfight for the top-seeded Sharks. Nova Southeastern never lost the lead, even as the Coyotes got to within three midway through the second half and to within two with four minutes remaining. The Sharks had five players in double figures, led by Kobe Rodgers' 21 points, to offset a 32-point performance by Brandon Knapper for Cal State San Bernardino and reach the championship game for the first time.
Black Hills State 86. Minnesota Duluth 68
Black Hills State became the 11th school to reach the semifinal round in consecutive NCAA Tournaments as it made a late first half run to build a 13-point lead by the intermission and went on to eliminate Minnesota Duluth in the first quarterfinal contest. The Yellow Jackets shot 53.5 percent from the field as they got 25 points from Matthew Ragsdale -- who went five-of-seven from three-point range -- and 23 more from Joel Scott in the victory. MInnesota Duluth was paced by Drew Blair and Charlie Katona with 16 points apiece in its first-ever Elite Eight appearance.
West Liberty 95, New Haven 58
West Liberty turned the second quarterfinal into a rout in the first 10 minutes, racing out to a 24-4 lead by the midway point of the first half and never looked back. The Hilltoppers also shot better than 50 percent in their win, making 51.4 percent from the field and connected 16 times from three-point range. Four players scored in double figures for West Liberty, led by Zach Rasile with 14 points, while Quashawn Lane and Kendall McMillan had 12 points apiece for the Chargers, another team making its Elite Eight debut. The decisive win, the largest margin in an Elite Eight game since 1989, made the Hilltoppers the 16th team in Division II history to win its first four games of a tournament by a double figure margin.
Nova Southeastern 82, Missouri-St. Louis 75
The closest quarterfinal contest of the night featured the top-seeded Sharks and UMSL, who played within five points of one another for the better part of the game. An 8-0 run by Nova Southeastern broke a 63-all tie in the second half as the Sharks got 34 points from Will Yoakum to remain undefeated at 34-0 and become the ninth team to enter the semifinal round with an undefeated record. The Tritons got 15 points from Bowen Sandquist and 13 from Donovan Vickers as they were making their first Elite Eight appearance in 51 seasons.
Cal State San Bernardino 88, Lincoln Memorial 70
The Coyotes earned a berth to the national semifinals for the first time since 2007 by taking a nine-point lead at the intermission and continuing to build on that lead in the second half. Cal State San Bernardino, who got 22 points from Darius Mickens and 18 from both Mahmoud Fofana and Dontrell Shuler, held the Railsplitters to a 34.3 percent shooting mark and outrebounded them by a 50-35 margin. The win by the Coyotes completed a sweep on the day by the top four seeds, the fourth time that has happened since the tournament was reseeded before the quarterfinals beginning in 2016. Lincoln Memorial got 16 points apiece from Matthew Sells and Me'Kell Burries.
|2022-23 NCAA Division II Elite Eight Scoreboard (All times Eastern)|
|Black Hills State||
|Cal St. San Bernardino||
|Game Stats||Game Stats||Game Stats||Game Stats|
|Black Hills State||
|Cal State San Bernardino||
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|2022-23 NCAA Division II Conference Tournaments|
|Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association||Feb. 21-25||Baltimore, Md.||Winston-Salem State|
|Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference||Feb. 21-28||Sioux Falls, S.D.||MSU Moorhead|
|Northeast-10 Conference||Feb. 24-March 4||Manchester, N.H.||Saint Anselm|
|Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference||Feb. 25-March 4||Savannah, Ga.||Miles|
|Great Midwest Athletic Conference||Feb. 28-March 4||North Canton, Ohio||Ashland|
|Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference||Feb. 28-March 4||Grand Junction, Colo.||Fort Lewis|
|Great Northwest Athletic Conference||March 2-4||Bellingham, Wash.||Northwest Nazarene|
|California Collegiate Athletic Association||March 2-4||Turlock, Calif.||Cal State San Bernardino|
|Pacific West Conference||March 2-4||Honolulu, Hawai'i||Point Loma|
|Conference Carolinas||Feb. 26-March 5||Spartanburg, S.C.||Emmanuel|
|Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference||Feb. 27-March 5||Shippensburg, Pa.||Indiana (Pa.)|
|Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference||Feb. 28-March 5||Philadelphia, Pa.||Caldwell|
|Gulf South Conference||Feb. 28-March 5||Birmingham, Ala.||West Alabama|
|Sunshine State Conference||Feb. 28-March 5||Davie, Fla.||Nova Southeastern|
|East Coast Conference||March 1-5||Sparkill, N.Y.||St. Thomas Aquinas|
|Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference||March 1-5||Big Rapids, Mich.||Northern Michigan|
|Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association||March 1-5||Kansas City, Mo.||Northwest Missouri State|
|Mountain East Conference||March 1-5||Wheeling, W.Va.||West Liberty|
|South Atlantic Conference||March 1-5||Greenville, S.C.||Catawba|
|Great American Conference||March 2-5||Shawnee, Okla.||Southern Arkansas|
|Great Lakes Valley Conference||March 2-5||St. Charles, Mo.||McKendree|
|Peach Belt Conference||March 2-5||Augusta, Ga.||Augusta|
|Lone Star Conference||March 3-5||Frisco, Texas||West Texas A&M|
|*Site of championship game|