Despite trailing the entire first half, the Buena Vista men's basketball team used a strong second half to hold off ninth-ranked UW-Stevens Point here Saturday night in the second round of the NCAA D-III national tournament, 54-53.
The win sent the Beavers (23-6) to their third Sweet Sixteen in school history, and first since 2003. They will travel to St. Louis for a sectional round contest against No. 11 Washington University-St. Louis (Mo.) this Friday night, March 14, at 8 p.m. on the home court of the Bears, who defeated Augustana 70-67 in overtime Saturday. A win over the Bears (21-6) would propel BVU to its first-ever Elite Eight appearance. The 6 p.m. contest that night will feature St. Mary's (Md.) and Millsaps College (Miss.). The winners meet up the next night, March 15, at 7 p.m. on the same court, with the national semifinals taking place March 21-22 in Salem, Va.
The Pointers, despite shooting only 31.3 percent in the opening half, built a 14-4 lead in the first nine minutes Saturday.
Matt Cleveland, who scored a game-high 10 points in the half brought BVU back to within five with just less than eight minutes left. BVU cut its deficit down to 25-24, but trailed by three at halftime.
Cleveland made 1-of-2 free throws, Andre Wagner buried a 3-pointer and the Beavers grabbed their first lead of the game, 28-27, and trailed only once (37-36) the rest of the way.
Back-to-back jumpers by Kyle Stribe and Rahn Franklin Jr. gave the team its biggest lead of the game (54-48) before Kahl El-Amin made consecutive baskets to cut the BVU lead down to one with 44 seconds left, and Travis Person came up with a big offensive rebound with under 15 seconds to go, eventually leading to the BVU victory.
Cleveland turned in a game-high 13 points, on 5-of-12 shooting, as Wagner followed with 12. BVU played stellar defense on the night as well, including a career-high and game-high 10 rebounds from Franklin, to go along with six assists.
The Beavers held the Pointers to 34.4 percent shooting for the night, including 8-of-30 from downtown.
Ross Rortvedt led UW-Stevens Point with 12 points, with two others chipping in with 11.