David Dennis leads the way with 28 points in 89-74 triumph over Lynn
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – One night after watching the Nova Southeastern women’s basketball team win the NCAA South Region Championship, the men’s side matched them with a trophy of their own. Playing in the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Tournament for the first time in program history, the Sharks took care of business every step of the way to book their trip to the Elite Eight in Evansville, Ind., culminating in a 89-74 win over rival Lynn in an overflowing crowd at the Rick Case Arena on Tuesday night.
INSIDE THE MATCHUP:
Score: Nova Southeastern 89, Lynn 74
Records: Nova Southeastern (29-3), Lynn (25-7)
Location: Rick Case Arena | Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
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HOW IT HAPPENED:
1ST HALF | The Fighting Knights jumped ahead right out of the gate with a pair of three-pointers in the first minute of the game, giving them the largest lead that either team would hold for the entire period. The Sharks responded with five quick points of their own to get within one, and the teams exchanged the next 10 field goals, as the Knights’ lead pinballed back and forth between one and three until Mark Matthews finally handed Nova Southeastern its first lead of the game with 13:15 remaining. The lead changed 10 more times the rest of the half, including three times in the next two minutes, as the Sharks and Knights matched one another punch for punch. Matthews scored a fastbreak layup with seven minutes left to give the Sharks their largest lead yet, at 28-25, but the Fighting Knights fought back with back-to-back layups to regain control once again. True to form, the teams traded points with five additional lead changes in less than two minutes, as each side briefly went ahead by a single point. The Sharks finally gained momentum for the rest of the half, and, as time would soon tell, the remainder of the game, leading for the final four and a half minutes before the break. In the closing minute, David Dennis hit two key layups, the second one off a clutch steal with 15 seconds left that pushed the Sharks’ advantage to five going into the locker room.
2ND HALF | The Sharks took command of the game for good in the first five-plus minutes of the second half, as they started out on a 13-0 run while the Knights missed their first nine shots. All told, the Knights were held without a field goal for nearly nine and a half minutes, only getting their seven points during that span at the line, while the Sharks poured in 26 on 10-of-18 from the field. By the time Lynn ended the drought, the Sharks had already taken a game-high, 19-point lead at 62-43. Though the Knights would twice trim the margin to nine, they never got closer than that, as the Sharks had an answer both times. The second time, Nova Southeastern responded with an 8-0 run to put the game away for good. Any chance of a Knights comeback was dashed when, after getting within 12 with 2:30 left, they proceeded to miss their final five field goals of the game, the last four from long range. Lukas Landgren rebounded a missed Knights free throw with nine seconds on the clock, holding the ball until the horn sounded to signal the completion of the Sharks’ journey from 6-20 before head coach Jim Crutchfield took over to NCAA South Region champions with a 29-3 record.
INSIDE THE STATS:
- Playing in the Rick Case for the final time in his career, Dennis made his impact felt early and often. He had one of his best shooting nights, setting a new career high with 13 field goals on 62 percent shooting for 28 points, including 17 in the first half. He also grabbed six rebounds and two steals, while dishing out five assists.
- Fellow senior Dwayne Gibson made his last appearance on his home court as a four-year starter for the Sharks. He tallied 13 points, three three-pointers, three rebounds and four steals.
- Matthews earned 12 of his 18 points in the first half, and added 11 rebounds and three assists to his final line, picking up his team-high 15th double-double of the season.
- Mikkel Kolstad collected his third double-digit scoring output of the tournament, as well, with a solid all-around game of 19 points, including a trio of three-pointers, three rebounds, four assists and three steals.
- Despite ranking among the top 10 percent of all DII squads in three-point percentage, both teams shot 10 percentage points below their season averages from long distance. The Sharks, entering the night in seventh in the country at 41.3 percent, made just 7 of 22 attempts, for a 31.8 percent rate. Lynn, meanwhile, hit just 28.1 percent (9-for-32), far below its usual mark of 39.5 percent.
BEYOND THE BOXSCORE:
- Dennis’ second basket of the game, at 2:18 in, gave him 1,000 points in his career as a Shark. He’s the 15th player to reach the milestone, and the second this season, following Gibson, who hit the mark on Jan. 30 in a win at Barry. Dennis currently sits at 1,024 in his two seasons with the program and 1,963 in his four-year collegiate career under Crutchfield.
- The Sharks wrap up play this season in the Rick Case Arena with a record of 20-2, the most home wins by any Sunshine State Conference team in the last 13 years.
- Participating in an NCAA Regional Tournament for the 10th time as a head coach, Crutchfield lifted the trophy for the sixth time, improving to a remarkable 27-9 all-time in all rounds of the NCAA Tournament, and 22-4 in regionals.
The Sharks will learn their Elite Eight matchup tomorrow when the re-seeding of each regional champion is announced. Regardless, their first game at the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind. will be on Wednesday, Mar. 27. Coach Crutchfield is no stranger to the venue – the last time the tournament was held there, from Mar. 26-29 in 2014, his West Liberty Hilltoppers made the NCAA National Championship game for the first time, falling to Central Missouri 84-77. Sharks Director of Player Development Devin Hoehn, who was a redshirt-freshman on that team, averaged 10.7 points across their three games. Fans can stay up-to-date with all Elite Eight information at NSUSharks.com or on Twitter @NSU_MBasketball.