WTAMU Buffs pull away from North Georgia, advance to NCAA Division II national semifinals


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WTAMU forward Ryland Holt throws down a dunk against North Georgia during a NCAA Division II Elite Eight Tournament game in Evansville, Ind., on Tuesday night. [Photo courtesy of Robson Lopes]
West Texas A&M jumped out to an unbelievable start only to watch North Georgia make a push to open the second half, but down the stretch when it counted the Buffs rose to the occasion to put away the Nighthawks 90-76 in a quarterfinal round matchup at the NCAA Division II Elite Eight Tournament in Evansville, Ind. on Tuesday night.

The Buffs get their 30th win of the year pushing their record to 30-4 overall and will now take on top-seed Minnesota State-Mankato (33-2) in a national semifinal at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday. The Mavericks pummeled Ferris State 98-70 in their quarterfinal Tuesday.

“I love how we played,” WTAMU assistant coach David Chavlovich said. “Now we turn the attention to Minnesota State. They are a very good basketball team. They have great guards and there is a reason why they have two losses. We’re here to play the best and we can’t wait for the matchup.”

WTAMU couldn’t have asked for a better start to open the Elite Eight jumping on North Georgia (28-7) starting the game with seven straight points and then went on an 11-0 run to go up 18-2 at the 14:22 mark of the first half.

The Buffs kept shooting it well behind sharp-shooter Zach Toussaint to take a 44-32 lead into half. Toussaint was lights out knocking down four of his five three-pointers on the night in the opening 20 minutes.

“We had teams jump out on us at the South Central Regional,” Chavlovich said. “One of our talks this week was to get out strong and play right away. I think we did a great job of that.”

WTAMU forward Larry Wise takes a shot against North Georgia on Tuesday night. [Photo courtesy of Robson Lopes]
North Georgia flipped momentum in the second half with blazing shooting of their own. In fact, the Nighthawks shot 77 percent in the opening eight minutes to not only erase the Buffs big lead but go on top 57-55 with 11:37 to play.

After the two teams saw six lead changes, WTAMU took control back down the stretch in the final five minutes. Ryland Holt knocked down a big three-pointer followed by Toussaint’s sixth three-ball of the night as WTAMU started pulling away taking a 75-68 advantage with five minutes to go.

Then the Lone Star Conference and South-Central Regional MVP Larry Wise took matters into his own hands getting layups, pulling down boards and dishing out assists as the Buffs finally put an end to the Nighthawks.

“In practice we work on different scenarios all the time,” Chavlovich said. “We do situation drills to make the guys think and deal with adversity so we can handle anything that comes at us. I thought we missed some good looks, but we stepped up when we needed to.”

Four Buffs reached double-digit scoring ed by a game-high 25 from Wise. Holt was huge with 21 on 7-of-11 shooting as Toussaint poured in 19 on 5-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc. Point guard Ahamed Mohammed was also a standout piling up 18 points and grabbed 10 boards for his first career double double.

WT shot 49.2 percent (29-of-59) from the field and were 13-of-36 from deep.

Division II Elite Eight
Men’s Basketball Championships
At Ford Center, Evansville, Ind.

Tuesday’s Quarterfinals 

Cal State-San Bernardino 99, Gannon 85
Nova Southeastern 68, Southern N.H., 60
Minnesota State 98, Ferris State 70
West Texas A&M 90, North Georgia 76

Thursday’s Semifinals

No. 3 Gannon (32-3) vs. Nova Southeastern (31-2), 1 p.m.

Minnesota State (33-2) vs. West Texas A&M (30-4), 3:30 p.m.

Saturday’s Championship

2 p.m.

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