LSU-Shreveport upset No. 9 Evangel, 77-70, to advance to the quarterfinals of the 2013 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship. The Pilots will face the winner of No. 1 seed Columbia (Mo.) and Hope International (Calif.) tomorrow at 6 p.m. CDT. The 76th annual event is held at Municipal Auditorium.
LSU-Shreveport will make its second-consecutive appearance in the quarterfinals, after securing its second win in the second round by defeating Evangel. Evangel, who only gave up 65 points in the regular season, 18th best in the nation, allowed 77 points to the highest scoring offense in NAIA Division 1.
“It’s a special win for our program,” said LSU-Shreveport head coach Kyle Blankenship. “Back-to-back quarterfinal appearances, that says a lot about LSU-Shreveport basketball. We’ve got guys with character, guys with heart, guys that want to win more than anything else. They’ll sacrifice personal statistics for that. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
LSU-Shreveport and Evangel locked into a close game for the first seven minutes of the contest. A pair of free throws by Stephen Cotton trimmed LSU-Shreveport’s lead to four, 14-10. After that the Pilots would open up their lead by going on an 11-4 run to open up a 25-14 lead. Evangel did not go away quietly, as the Crusaders continued to battle.
However, after Evangel got as close as eight points, LSU-Shreveport would extend its lead back into double figures. Evangel continued to battle back, cutting the Pilots lead down to nine, 39-30, with 1:23 left in the first half. LSU-Shreveport extended its lead back to 10 points, after a pair of free throws by Mark Politte. LSU-Shreveport took a 41-31 lead into halftime.
LSU-Shreveport continued to hold a 10-point lead during the first seven minutes of the second half. After the Crusaders Korry Tillery grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back, Evangel was down three, 45-42, with 13:42 to play.
Three minutes and 42 seconds later the Crusaders came all the way back, tying the game at 53. With the game tied at 57, the Pilots answered with an 11-2 run. After the run LSU-Shreveport did not look back and held the lead the rest of the way as they defeated Evangel 77-70.
“This is a really close-knit group,” said Evangel head coach Steve Jenkins of his team. “Three of our seniors are four-year players, and they are the first group we’ve had get to four national tournaments. They are disappointed, but when we get further away from the sting of this loss, they will have fond memories of this season and of each other
LSU-Shreveport was led by Brandon Davis’s game-high 23 points and game-high 17 rebounds, for his 17th double-double of the season. Rodney Milum followed with 19 points for the Pilots.
Evangel ends its season at 26-7 and was led in scoring by Stephen Cotton’s 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Victor Agbasi followed with 13 points.