SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – So many big shots; so many big plays. No.1 Overall seed IU East survived Oklahoma Wesleyan’s valiant upset bid, defeating the Eagle 82-77 in a classic double overtime game played this morning at the NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship.
The dynamic backcourt duo of Bishop Smith and Jaylen McKay led IU East with 19 and 18 points, respectively. McKay’s biggest moment was at the end of the first overtime period when, with his team down two with 3.4 seconds, the sophomore drove the full length of the court and hit a floater in the lane just ahead of the horn to send the game into a second overtime.
Oklahoma Wesleyan guard KJ Malveau hit a jumper to open the second overtime for the Eagles’ final lead as IU East answered with an 11-2 run, taking the lead for good with a three-pointer from Smith. From there, the Red Wolves made enough free throws during the final minute to secure their spot into Saturday’s quarterfinal.
Defense dominated play, especially in the first half, holding shooting percentages down to below 40% for both teams. IU East held a five-point edge at the half (28-23) and pushed the lead to as many as nine in the second half (38-29). They continued to hold the lead until, a pair of free throws by Malveau brought OWU all the way back, tying the game at 53 with a minute left.
Back in front by two on free throws by Jacoby Claypool, Oklahoma Wesleyan sent the game into overtime with a jumper by Josh Wilchombe with 31 seconds left. IU East missed on its potential game winner in the closing seconds.
The lead switched hands four times in the first overtime until a step-back, fade away by Isaac Rowe seemingly won it for Oklahoma Wesleyan with 3.4 seconds left to play.
Both Lucas Huffman and Nate Niehoff scored 10 points, giving IU East four players in double figures.
Oklahoma Wesleyan was led by Malveau with 23 points and Rowe played an outstanding all-around game with 18 points, 15 rebounds and six assists. The Eagles’ end the year with a 26-9 record.
IU East improves its already program-best record to 33-2 and will play either No. 3 Briar Cliff (Iowa) or No.2 St. Thomas (Fla) in Saturday’s quarterfinal at 2pm.