TLU Men’s Basketball Advances to NCAA Post-Season
March 1, 2015
The Texas Lutheran Bulldogs are NCAA Division III Tournament-bound after an 80-75 win Sunday over Centenary (La.) in the championship game of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Men's Basketball Tournament.
The Bulldogs claimed the SCAC's automatic bid to the NCAA DIII post-season and earned TLU's first-ever men's basketball national tournament appearance.
TLU (18-9) will take on Claremont-Mudd-Scripps(23-5) of Claremont, California, winners of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, in the first round of the NCAA DIII Men’s Basketball Championship on Friday, March 6, at 5:00 p.m. CST. The game will be played in Ornelas Gymnasium on the campus of East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, Texas. Site host ETBU will face Hendrix College (Ark.) on Friday. at 7:30 p.m. The TLU/Claremont-Mudd-Scripps winner faces the ETBU/Hendrix winner on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. in Ornelas Gymnasium.
At University of Dallas' Maher Athletic Center, the Bulldogs used a 13-0 run midway through the second half to take an eight-point lead and then hold off the Gents.
SCAC Coach of the Year Jimmy Smith turned the Bulldogs into regular-season and conference-tournament champions in his first season with the team. The Bulldogs had only three wins against NCAA DIII teams a year ago (9-17 overall) and finished last in the eight-team SCAC in 2013-14.
"It's just an unbelievable feeling right now," said Smith. "Obviously when you get together at the beginning of the season, everybody's goal is to win a conference championship, so when we got together at the beginning of the preseason in October that was our goal too. It's just a credit to these guys to keep going."
"We started the season slow, but we just kept going, kept going, kept going. We played a tough schedule, and I think that has paid off for us now. We get into these environments like this weekend, facing a tough Dallas team with their home crowd and Centenary bussed-in I don't know how many people. We just kept playing. They made runs. We made runs. We kept our composure and did what we needed to do to win."
SCAC Tournament Most Valuable Player Jordan Kouremetis (San Antonio/O'Connor) scored 17 of his game-high 20 in the second half.
Kouremetis hit a pair of three-pointers in the key Bulldog run.
"It's amazing," Kouremetis said of the trip to the NCAA tournament. "I love it, and I can't wait. We're going to go back home and get prepared like any other game. It's going to be fun."
TLU trailed by five, 50-35, with 13:27 to play. The 13-0 TLU run started with a Zach Behr (Temple/Temple/Schreiner) lay-up and a Behr three. Kouremetis then nailed a pair of threes around a Thomas Verm (Sealy/Sealy) lay-up.
Kouremetis made five three-pointers against the Gents. He was 6-for-12 from the field and 5-for-8 from the arc.
The Bulldogs were 5-of-7 from the three-point line in the second half.
Kouremetis was joined on the SCAC All-Tournament Team by sophomore point guard Sterling Holmes (San Antonio/Antonian/Richland College) and senior forward Donte McGee (Victoria/Memorial/Texas A&M-Kingsville).
Against Centenary, Holmes scored 12 points, grabbed seven boards and dished out six assists. McGee posted 17 points and six rebounds.
Behr came off the TLU bench to score 12. He also registered five rebounds and three assists.
Josh Sanchez (Corpus Christi/Carroll/Victoria College) made a pair of threes and scored eight for TLU. Sanchez added four rebounds. Garrett Wilkins (Austin/Connally/Colorado Northwestern CC) pitched in seven points and five rebounds.
Travion Kirkendoll led Centenary with 18 points. He also grabbed six rebounds. SCAC Player of the Year James Sapp contributed 15 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals.
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