The D2 season kicked off in the Show-Me State on Friday as eight of the nation’s top programs took part in the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame Classic in St. Joseph, Missouri. And the East Region picked up right where it left off last March, with a loss to the #1 team in the land:
NORTHWEST MISSOURI STATE 85 DAEMEN 65
Trevor Hudgins amassed 24 points (10-10 FT), nine rebounds and seven assists, while Ryan Hawkins also notched 24 points (9-13 FG, 6-9 from 3-point range) as #1 Northwest Missouri State began defense of its second NCAA championship in three years by pulling away from #22 Daemen at the St. Joseph Civic Arena. The Bearcats never trailed on the night, jumping out to a 26-9 lead and snuffing out any serious runs as the Wildcats twice crept within single digits in the second half, the last instance making it 70-61 after a Joey Wallace foul shot with 5:26 to play. Northwest Missouri – playing just 42 miles from its campus – responded with eight straight points (Hudgins accounting for the last six) and finished the game with the largest spread of 20. Andrew Sischo topped the Daemen scorecard with a 24-point, 15-rebound double-double while adding a career-best five assists. Wallace also reached twin figures with 17 (14 after intermission), but turnovers proved costly for the Wildcats, who committed 16 to the Bearcats’ seven and were punished by a whopping 25-0 off of miscues. Northwest Missouri State – which ended St. Anselm’s Elite-8 run last March in the national semifinals – has now won 39 straight games and an absurd 101 of its last 106 while also capturing a 33rd consecutive triumph in a neutral setting. Daemen was outshot from the floor (57%-47%) but held a modest 26-25 edge on the glass in suffering its first opening night loss in 18 years - a 75-35 setback at Spring Hill (AL) on November 2, 2001. The Wildcats will play another school from the host state on Saturday – Missouri Western – in the final game of the season-opening tourney.