Point Loma Nazarene‘s miracle season came to an end Saturday, one game shy of the national championship. It would have been the Sea Lions’ first national title.
PNLU (31-5) lost to Northwest Missouri State, 64-58, in Evansville, Indiana, but just barely. The Sea Lions kept it close for much of the game — at one point leading by three points, but it wasn’t enough to over the undefeated Bearcats. Northwest is now tied with last season’s champs, Ferris State, for the most wins in NCAA Division II history.
“Credit to Northwest Missouri State. They played great tonight,” PNLU coach Ryan Looney said. “As we prepared, even people we talked to talked about how efficient they are on offense — and they are. I think when teams think about us and competing to play against our guys, they kind of think the same thing and our numbers would indicate that.”
Northwest was held to its second-fewest point total this season at 64 and it was 19 points below its season average. The Bearcats got a jump on the Sea Lions at the start of the game, going 10-4 before PNLU rallied back to take a 24-23 lead with 4:09 remaining in the half.
A layup by Preston Beverly, a dunk and free throw by Daulton Hommes later gave PNLU its biggest lead of the game, 29-26 with 2:12 remaining. Northwestern went on a 7-0 run to close out the half with a 33-29 lead.
PNLU started the second half strong with a 5-0 run for a one-point lead, 34-33, but after that point, was playing against a deficit.
Hommes, who earlier in the week was named Division II player of the year, lead PLNU with 26 points. Beverly added 15 points with nine rebounds.
“Definitely just the team,” Hommes said when asked about the most memorable experience for him this season. “I could care less (sic) about the awards. I wanted to win that game more than anything but the most memorable is going to be the team.”
This was first title game for PNLU in its second appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
With the win, Northwestern became the fifth team in Division II history to go undefeated with a national title.