EVANSVILLE, Ind. – The No. 1 Nova Southeastern Sharks Men’s Basketball team continued their chase of the program’s first NCAA National Championship, advancing to the Final Four for the first-time in program history, defeating Missouri-St. Louis in a battle from the tip-off until the final whistle. The top-ranked Sharks were led by 34 points from Will Yoakum.
INSIDE THE MATCHUP
Score – No. 1 Nova Southeastern 82 | Missouri-St. Louis 75
Records – No. 1 Nova Southeastern 34-0 | No. 8 Missouri-St. Louis 24-11
Location – Evansville, Ind. | Ford Center
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HOW IT HAPPENED
First Half – A steal from RJ Sunahara set up a Dallas Graziani bucket, giving the Sharks the first bucket of the game and an early lead. A few moments later, Graziani recorded his first steal of the game and set up a Yoakum three-pointer in transition to put NSU back in front 9-7. The Tritons did not back down, as the defenses for both teams battled back-and-forth, as neither team scored for nearly three minutes. USML took a three-point lead following two consecutive three-pointers, before Yoakum followed with a pair of buckets and reclaimed the lead for the Sharks at 19-18. With less than four minutes remaining in the first half, the Tritons took their largest advantage (30-25) in the opening frame. Kobe Rodgers beat the buzzer and sent the Sharks into the halftime break with momentum, but the score tied at 36-36.
Second Half – Nearly two minutes passed in the second half before either team got on the scoreboard, USML took control with two dunks from Drew Cisse, taking a 41-38 lead. Needing a spark on the offensive side of the ball, Yoakum took charge, driving into the paint and made the layup while being fouled for an and-one opportunity. Yoakum converted the three-point play the old fashioned way and cut the Tritons lead to 46-45. Midway through the second half, Jake Maranville stepped up and knocked down a three-pointer to tie the game at 51-51. The Sharks finally seized momentum as both Maranville and Yoakum hit three-pointers, giving NSU a 71-63 advantage with three-minutes remaining. Graziani hit a clutch jumper with less than a minute remaining and the Sharks sealed the 82-75 win from the free throw line.
STATS OF THE NIGHT
Will Yoakum has played his best basketball when the light’s have shined brightest. The Delaware, Ohio-native entered tonight’s matchup off a performance where he scored 33-points and hit tied the program record with nine three-pointers. Yoakum scored a new career-high 34 points, shooting 64% from the field.
The difference in the game came at the charity stripe. USML shot 43.8% as a team, while NSU shot 83.8% (31-37). Yoakum was 14-15 from the free throw line.
No. 1 Nova Southeastern advances to the Final Four for the first time in program history with the victory.
No. 1 Nova Southeastern will take on the winner of fourth-seeded Cal. State Bernadino and fifth-seed Lincoln Memorial in the Final Four on Thursday, March 23. The game will be streamed live on the CBS Sports Network beginning at 7 p.m. ET.