WTAMU grinds out win over Dallas Baptist; advances to South Central Regional finals

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WTAMU forward Larry Wise goes up for a bucket against Dallas Baptist during an NCAA Division II South Central Regional semifinal game on Sunday night at the First United Bank Center. [Joe Garcia III/ Press Pass Sports]
Survive and advance.

That’s the name of the game when NCAA Tournament time rolls around.

And that’s exactly the story West Texas A&M men’s basketball team penned Sunday night during its South Central Regional semifinal at the First United Bank Center.

The normally high-scoring Buffs survived foul trouble, survived injury and survived a low-scoring game advancing to the regional finals with a chance to play in the Elite Eight.

A totally-into-the-game crowd of 1,500 fans saw the Buffs grind out a 60-54 win over Lone Star Conference foe Dallas Baptist University.

Anybody predicting they would see a grind it out game is simply a liar when you consider DBU was averaging 88 points a game and WT 86 points an outing.

But that’s what it was as nothing was easy for either team on the offensive end with few shots going uncontested.

“This was a great college game,” said WT head coach Tom Brown. “Low scoring. A slugfest. We were fortunate to come out on top.”

The Buffs won despite LSC freshman of the year Kieran Elliott fouling out with 7:03 to play, LSC player of the year Larry Wise having to leave for a while with an injury, and DBU’s Deng Dut dropping 23 points on the Buffs.

But when push came to shove, WT had the answers.

The Buffs outscored DBU 16-2 on second half chances, and when things got really interesting the final nine minutes, WT seemed to make play after play.

The Buffs took the lead for 45-42 with 8:56 to play when Wise poured in a 3-pointer after a scramble for a loose ball.

WTAMU guard Ryland Holt drives to the basket against Dallas Baptist. [Joe Garcia III/ Press Pass Sports]
Now WT did run away and hide from DBU over that final nine minutes as the Buffs had to make several key plays down the stretch to secure their 29th win of the season.

  • With 4:52 to play and WT clinging to a 47-46 lead, Buffs senior Ryland Holt backed down Ta’Jay Dunlap in the paint for a three-point play and a 50-46 cushion.
  • With WT leading 54-50 and the shot clock running out, sophomore Brock Mishak buried his only 3-pointer of points of the game for a 57-50 lead with 1:52 to play.
  • DBU cut the WT led to 57-54 with 38.4 seconds to play on a pair of Dut free throws. On the next possession, WT sophomore Ahamed Mohammed is fouled with 9.2 seconds remaining attempting a 3-pointer. Mohammed made all three free throws for a 60-54 lead. He then intercepted DBU’s inbounds to seal the win.

Ahamed Mohammed celebrates after the WTAMU Buffs beat Dallas Baptist on Sunday. [Joe Garcia III/ Press Pass Sports]
The Buffs placed two players in double figures with Wise (who left the game limping with just under four minutes to play but returned later) leading with 16 points and Holt adding 11.

WT did the job on the boards out rebounding DBU 46-33 with guard Mohammed leading the way with nine boards, Wise adding eight and Holt had seven.

“That’s the reason we like basketball,” Holt said of the physical game which he thrived in. “We knew the refs were going to let us play a little bit. That’s how we like it. It was going to be the team who goes and takes the win when it’s like that. That’s the way it’s going to be the rest of the way out. That’s a great team we played.”

Said WT coach Brown: “It’s tough beating a really good team and that’s what DBU is, a really good team. I thought Coach Flickner did a great job with his game plan. I though their players played great. They were strong and they got up and pressed. They didn’t let us get a lot of cheap baskets off their press. They made us earn everything.”

DBU coach Flickner was a class act in praising the way the regional was run by WT officials and said the Buffs are just a tough team to beat and give them credit for the grind it out win.

“It hurts for us,” Flickner said. “There are a lot of tears in that locker room right now. Because for some guys who really love this game and love playing for each other it was their last game. We felt like we poured our hearts out and tried to compete at the highest level we could. Any shortcomings we had was not a from a lack of caring or lack of effort. So, it hurts, it hurts.

“We gave ourselves a chance. Our defense was competitive.”

WT advances to the South Central regional finals at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the FUB taking on Colorado Mesa University. Mesa won the opening regional semifinal Sunday night 85-80 over Fort Lewis College in an all-RMAC game.

NCAA Division II South Central Regional 
at First United Bank Center, Canyon 

Tuesday’s championship

Colorado Mesa (29-4) vs West Texas A&M (29-4), 7 p.m.

Sunday’s semifinals 

Colorado Mesa 85, Fort Lewis 80
West Texas A&M 60, Dallas Baptist 54

Saturday’s quarterfinals

Colorado Mesa 95, Eastern New Mexico 77
Fort Lewis 86, Lubbock Christian 72
West Texas A&M 81, Angelo State 66
Dallas Baptist 86, Colorado Mines 73

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