The Lindsey Wilson men’s basketball team punched their ticket to the 2018 NAIA Division I National Tournament after topping rival Campbellsville (Ky.) 84-76 in the Mid-South Conference Tournament championship game on Sunday afternoon at the Eastern Kentucky Expo Center.
With the victory, the Blue Raiders (24-8) collect the conference’s automatic bid for the national championship set to begin on March 14 from Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Missouri. Lindsey Wilson matches the 1997-98 Cumberlands (Ky.) team as the lowest seed to capture the MSC Tournament crown. It is Lindsey Wilson’s fourth conference tournament crown and will be the program’s 12th all-time appearance at the national tournament and first since the 2012-13 season when LWC advanced to the Fab Four.
After knocking off third-seeded Cumberlands and second-seeded Georgetown (Ky.) to reach the tournament finals, the sixth-seeded Blue Raiders pulled off one more upset as they defeated the fifth-seeded Tigers (23-10), avenging a pair of regular season losses to the conference rival.
Five Blue Raiders were in double figures as Bryan Wallace scored a game-high 22 points, adding six steals, five assists and four rebounds along the way. Nic Brown added 16 points and six rebounds as Can Oztamur also had 16 points. Kel Stotts finished the game with 12 points and Hannes Erhardt added 11.
After trailing by seven at halftime, Lindsey Wilson outscored Campbellsville 52-37 in the second half and used a pivotal 9-3 run down the stretch to help pull away for the win.
Campbellsville pulled within three at 70-67 with 5:12 to play, but Lindsey Wilson used three layups and hit as many free throws to take a 79-70 lead with just 50 seconds left in the game. Five different players scored for LWC over the run.
Lindsey Wilson shot 55.8 (29-of-52) percent from the floor compared to the Tigers’ 47.4 (27-of-57) percent from the floor. The Blue Raiders used a 66.7 (18-of-27) shooting percentage in the second half to pick up the come-from-behind-win.
Lindsey Wilson used three three-point baskets in the first three minutes of the game to charge out to a 9-2 lead. Campbellsville immediately responded with a 13-2 stretch that saw three three-point buckets of its own.
Campbellsville held a 22-16 lead when the Blue Raiders were able to score 11 of the next 14 points to regain the lead. The Blue Raiders went 5-of-7 from the line, and when Erhardt sank two with 6:35 to play, he put LWC in front 27-25.
Campbellsville then regained the lead after Andrew Smith was able to score eight unanswered points, opening with a pair of threes before attacking the glass to scoring inside. A Wallace three pointer with 2:10 left in the half ended an 11-0 by the Tigers to put LWC down by six at 36-30.
Campbellsville held a 39-32 lead at the break.
The Blue Raiders shot just 44.0 percent from the floor in the first half as Campbellsville shot 53.5 percent.
Lindsey Wilson opened the second half on a 18-8 run that lasted until the 14:33 mark of the half that gave them a three-point 50-47 lead. The two sides traded baskets until LWC was able to build their largest lead of the half to that point of five at 68-63 with 6:14 remaining in the game. But it was Lindsey Wilson’s stingy defense, strong rebounding and timely baskets the helped the Blue Raiders complete the run through the tournament with a win.
Hagan Tyler led Campbellsville with 20 points after he connected on 6-of-11 from deep in the game. Smith followed with 19 points and pulled down 10 rebounds.
The NAIA Tournament bracket will be released on March 7 at 6 p.m. CT.