Men’s Basketball drops NAIA First Round game to LSU-Shreveport in overtime thriller

3/16/2024 | Men’s Basketball | Box Score

Easton Hunter’s 3-point basket as time expired in regulation gave Kansas Wesleyan new life, but Louisiana State-Shreveport made sure it was short lived.


The Pilots scored on all seven of their possessions in overtime and pulled away for a 95-89 victory in a first-round game of the NAIA Men’s National Championship before a raucous and near-capacity crowd Friday night inside Mabee Arena.

LSU-S (23-8) plays Concordia (24-7) in the second round at 6 p.m. Saturday, the winner advancing to the Round of 16 starting March 21 in Kansas City, Missouri. Concordia defeated Indiana-Northwest 83-81 in the first game of the night session.

Wesleyan (23-9) led 38-28 at halftime and was up 63-52 with less than nine minutes left before the Pilots rallied. A 23-8 run gave them a 75-71 lead with 58 seconds remaining.

Jun Murdock’s 3-pointer cut it to 75-74 with 47.8 seconds left and after two Damon Davis free throws, Murdock scored again with 12.1 seconds left to cut the deficit to 77-76. Two Calvin Carpenter free throws with 8.5 seconds left gave the Pilots another three-point cushion, 79-76.

Cory Kaplan then missed a 3-point shot from the left baseline but Hunter got the rebound and nailed a three from the right baseline with two seconds left to force the extra period.

After the Coyotes took an 81-79 lead LSU-S scored 10 of the next 14 points. The Pilots were 6 of 8 shooting and made both of their free throw attempts in overtime; KWU was 3 of 7 and 4 of 6 at the line.

“We settled (for jump shots) and they caught some fire on the offensive end and rolled down the stretch,” KWU coach Anthony Monson said. “We didn’t do what we needed to do.

“We had a chance, we had them on the ropes for a little bit, but we didn’t make the plays and they made the plays when they needed to. Their guards banked in three or four shots down the stretch and that’s tough when it happens. You just have to tip your hat.”

The Pilots’ size advantage was an issue. They outrebounded KWU 50-37 and had 24 second chance points to the Coyotes’ 10.

“When we recruited this team, we put together a team that could compete in the national tournament at this level,” LSU-S coach Kyle Blankenship said. “We got some size and experience. Our guards went in there and got rebounds and gave us second chance opportunities. It was a great team effort across the board tonight in an incredible environment.”

“The coaches push us every day in practice to go in and crash and rebound,” said guard Trey Johnson who had 11 points and six rebounds. “Our big (guys) tell us ‘just put (the ball) on the rim and we’ll go it.’ We trust you to make shots but if you miss, we’ll go get it.”

Murdock had a game-high 26 points on 10 of 17 shooting and six assists in the final game of his fabulous college career. Alex Littlejohn had yet another double-double – 16 points and 17 rebounds – while Thurbil Bile scored 13, Hunter 12 and Izaiah Hale 10. The Coyotes shot 45.2 percent (33 of 73) including 6 of 23 from deep.

“Jun has been a warrior for this program and he’ll go down as one of the best Coyotes who ever played and rightfully so,” Monson said. “He’s left his mark and that’s all you can ask for.”

Guard Melvion Flanagan, a transfer from Wichita State, led five LSU-S players in double figures with 19 points. Carpenter and James Ellis, a 6-foot-11 center, each scored 14. The Pilots shot 47.4 percent (36 of 76) – 56 percent the second half (19 of 34).

Monson said the Coyotes’ season was a success, Friday’s loss notwithstanding.

“It’s been fun,” he said. “We’ll miss these seniors but there’s a lot to be proud of, lot to hold their heads high about.”