WTAMU Buffs season comes to an end to Minnesota State in NCAA D-II national semifinals


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Ahamed Mohammed of WTAMU goes in for a layup against Minnesota State during a NCAA Division II national semifinal on Friday at the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind. [Robson Lopes/ For WT athletics]
West Texas A&M battled back and battled back never giving up in the fight, but in the end top-seeded Minnesota State was too tough as the Buffs saw another stellar season come to an end in a 79-72 loss during the NCAA Division II national semifinals at the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind.

The Buffs, who put together a 30-win season for only the fourth time in program history, finish the year 30-5, and were making their fourth appearance at the NCAA Division II Elite Eight Tournament in the last 10 years.

“We fought to the end,” West Texas A&M assistant coach David Chavlovich said. “That’s what we expected from this team. Even the few regular season games we lost we never gave up. It’s tough to go in the locker room and see how heartbroken this team is right now. I know that feeling well. This is tough but we’re proud of these guys.”

The Mavericks (34-2) will go on to play the NCAA Division II national championship game against defending champion Nova Southeastern (32-2) at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Though WT trailed for 37 plus minutes of this semifinal clash, there were two instances head coach Tom Brown’s team gave themselves a chance when it looked like the chips were down.

Minnesota State came out blazing from the field going on an 11-0 run to take a 16-5 lead near the 13-minute mark of the first half. WTAMU answered back with an 11-2 run of its own cutting the deficit 29-27 closing in on the five-minute mark of the half but never could get the lead.

In the second half, the Buffs once again made things interesting. Trailing 47-35, WTAMU turned up the offense going on a 14-2 run highlighted by a Ryland Holt 3-ball to tie the game, 49-49, at the 14:16 mark of the second half.

But as quick as WTAMU tied it, the Mavericks took control right back going on a very quick 7-0 run to regain a seven-point lead. Minnesota State extended that advantage to as many as 13 points with 6:29 to play.

WTAMU gave itself one final chance getting the lead back down to five with under three minutes but were never able to close the gap.

“We came back and made it close and even tied it,” Chavlovich said. “We had the looks and they just didn’t go down. They made big shots when we didn’t. To win a national title you have to have so many things go right. We just missed timely shots and didn’t roll our way.”

Unlike Tuesday’s quarterfinal win against North Georgia where the Buffs shot lights out, WTAMU struggled from the field going only 7-of-34 from 3-point land and only made it to the charity stripe two times in the second half.

A bigger more physical Minnesota State squad outrebounded the Buffs 45-38 and outscored WTAMU in the paint 42-32.

WTAMU guard Zach Toussaint shoots a floater over a Minnesota State defender. [Robson Lopes/ For WT athletics]
Guard Ahamed Mohammed led the Buffs with 19 points and seven rebounds.

Playing in the final game of his illustrious career, Buff sharp-shooting senior Zach Toussaint didn’t have the game he wanted to remember. Toussaint was smothered by the Maverick defense finishing with four points going 0-for-7 from beyond the arc.

That doesn’t take away what Toussaint means to the WTAMU program finishing as the second leading scorer in program history with 1,823 career points. The Buffs also say goodbye to All-American and Lone Star Conference Player of the Year Larry Wise, who scored 18 in the loss, and Ryland Holt along with role player Cameron Bell.

“First off, they are four awesome young men on and off the court,” Chavlovich said. “They are so fun to be around. They put the work in and go home and do it again. We’re going to miss them. Larry is an All-American, Zach is the second all-time leading scorer in the program, Ryland is the Defensive Player of the Year and then Cameron. He doesn’t play a lot but his leadership in practice is unbelievable. It’s tough to show up to practice and know you’re probably not going to play. He still competed everyday and it was great to see.”

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