Defensive dominance pushes Pioneers past Eagles, 65-43

Defensive dominance pushes Pioneers past Eagles, 65-43
Photos courtesy of Referee Photo

Provided by Wayland Baptist Athletics

Story By Eric Montgomery | NAIA Media Coordinator

No. 7-seeded Wayland Baptist (Texas) yielded just 16 second-half points on the way to a 65-43 win over sixth-seeded Life (Ga.) to advance to the quarterfinals of the 81st Annual NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship, Friday afternoon at Municipal Auditorium. The Pioneers will play LSU Shreveport (La.), a 70-67 winner over Dillard (La.), on Saturday, March 17 at 2:00 p.m. CDT

NOTES

Wayland Baptist improved its overall record to 25-9
Life concluded its season with a record of 21-12
After 15 of the first 18 games were decided by 10 points or fewer, the last two contests were 20-plus point verdicts
STANDOUT PERFORMERS

Trevonta Robertson led all scorers with 22 points to go along with seven rebounds and three steals for Wayland Baptist
Samuel Kalwanyi chipped in a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Pioneers
Ivan Benkovic and Deven Dorsett came off the bench to score nine and eight points, respectively, to lead Life
HOW IT HAPPENED

Defense provided the foundation for Wayland Baptist to move into the quarterfinal round, holding Life under 35 percent shooting in both halves, including a 6 for 25 clip (.240) in the second half
Robertson hit back-to-back three-point shots inside the opening 2:20 of the first half as the Pioneers led for all but the opening 32 seconds of play
An 11-2 stretch that included nine points by Robertson stretched the lead to a dozen before the Pioneers settled for a 35-27 halftime lead
A three-pointer by Robertson with 3:26 to play gave Wayland Baptist its biggest lead of the game at 63-38 to finish off a 10-1 stretch in which Life went without a field goal for over 5:30

INSIDE THE BOX SCORE

Life received over half of its offense from the bench as its five starters combined to shoot 7 for 33 (.212)
Wayland Baptist took advantage of its 12 forced turnovers, turning them into 19 points

GAME NOTES:

Wayland Baptist

The Pioneers are appearing in the NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship for the 18th time and fourth in the last five seasons...Prior to this season, Wayland Baptist's last trip to the quarterfinals was in 1985, when the Pioneers made it all the way to the championship game before losing, 82-80 in overtime, to Fort Hays State (Kan.)...The Pioneers are now 2-5 all-time in second round games and 11-17 overall...Prior to this season, the last time Wayland Baptist advanced to the second round was 2008, when the Pioneers knocked off Martin Methodist (Tenn.), 89-85, in the first round before bowing out in the second round, 81-74, at the hands of Mountain State (W. Va.)...The Pioneers are one of five Sooner Athletic Conference teams in this year's national tournament and one of two to advance to the second round...Wayland Baptist is 11-5 against teams in the tournament field...The Pioneers have won seven of the last eight games...Wayland Baptist's opening-round win was the first victory for a No. 7 seed since 2016, when William Jessup (Calif.) knocked off Pikeville (Ky.), 82-69, and Dillard (La.) beat Hope International (Calif.), 111-91...Wayland Baptist is the first team seeded as low as No. 7 to make it to the quarterfinals since No. 8 Martin Methodist (Tenn.) and No. 13 Mid-America Christian (Okla.) both accomplished the feat in 2015.

Life

Life qualified for the NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship for the second-straight season and eighth time in the last 10 seasons...The Running Eagles played in the opening game of the tournament (Wednesday 9 a.m. CT tipoff) for the second straight year, beating Martin Methodist (Tenn.) in the tournament's lid-lifter in 2017 before knocking off William Carey (Miss.)...Coming into the game against Wayland Baptist (Texas), Life had alternated wins and losses in its last seven games...The Running Eagles - the defending national runner-up - are 5-4 all-time in second-round games...Life is one of six Mid-South Conference teams in the 32-team field and one of three to make it to the second round, giving the conference a 4-4 record thus far...Life is now 9-8 against this season's championship qualifiers...The Running Eagles are now 27-14 all-time in 17 appearances in this event... Life's Keith Adkins is the first head coach in the tournament's 81-year history to make consecutive NAIA Fab Four appearances with different teams – he directed Campbellsville (Ky.) to the Fab Four in 2016 and Life to the Fab Four in 2017.