- Result: #5 Maranatha 73-90 #4 Johnson
- Venue: Davis Field House, Bob Jones University
- Attendance: 78
- Record: Sabercats are now 15-13, and 10-1 in NCCAA play
- Next Game for MBU: NCCAA National Consolation Bracket: Mar. 9 at 9 a.m. EST vs #1 Randall/#8 Kentucky Christian
GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Maranatha's bid for their second-ever NCCAA national title came to an early end today at the hands of the high-scoring Johnson University Tennessee Royals.
The Sabercats suffered their first NCCAA DII loss of the season and will now play in the consolation bracket tomorrow at 9 a.m. EST against the loser of #1 Randall University and #8 Kentucky Christian University.
In the opening possessions, the Sabercats succumbed to the inevitable pressure of a national tournament - MBU battled sloppy and rushed possession and could not get a clean look at the bucket as a result. After a 9-0 run from Johnson, Keith Salscheider had seen enough, calling a timeout with 16:52 on the clock.
That timeout did its job, as 6 quick points from the Sabercats and a 3-pointer from Stephen Wilkerson tied the game right back up at 9 apiece.
But Maranatha's momentum proved to be short-lived, as they fell back into their early habits under the pressure of a full-court press from the Royals. At the midway point in the half, the Sabercats had allowed Johnson to pull out to a 24-13 lead.
The Sabercats' play didn't show any marked improvement from that point on - they forced their chances and could not maintain clean possession. At the other end of the court, the Royals lived up to their reputation of being the highest-scoring offense in the NCCAA DII, as they stayed sharp to post 51 points on MBU - that was the most points the Sabercats had conceded against an NCCAA school this season.
The halftime score: 51-31 in favor of Johnson.
MBU turned the ball over 11 times in the opening half - that mark was roughly their total average for the last 4 games. Bryce Cashner led the Sabercats with 7 first-half points. JUT's Coby Jones and Taylor Gilpin set the pace for the Royals with 16 and 12 points, respectively.
The opening minutes of the second half showed that this game would be all about Johnson. The Royals were able to get multiple clean looks a the bucket and they took care of their chances, extending their lead to 28 points with a couple of early shots from downtown.
Maranatha tried to stay in the hunt with some strong play in the paint, but Johnson rode the momentum that they had built throughout the opening half, keeping the Sabercats well out of reach as time expired.
The free throw line was a factor in this one. Maranatha sent Johnson to the charity stripe 23 times while the Royals kept their hands clean by allowing the Sabercats just 6 looks from the line.
A parting 3-pointer from Micah Shepard meant that the Sabercats had won the second half, but that was little consolation as the team knew they were heading into the dreaded consolation bracket.
Shepard led Maranatha with 16 points. Cashner and Wilkerson both recorded 10.
Gilpin lived up to his reputation by scoring 27 points. Jones added 16 in the game.
Johnson shot 18-23 from the free-throw line while Maranatha went 3-6.
MBU finished with 14 turnovers while JUT registered only 7.
THE SOUND BITE
"I want to give Johnson University a lot of the credit," said Coach Keith Salscheider after the game. "They effectively got us out of our game plan and we just did not react well to it. It didn't help that we were without Jonathan Book, but we just struggled to keep the ball in play. Johnson played harder and quicker than we did, and when you don't play harder or faster than the opponent, you're not going to have good things happen. So that's something we have to be better with tomorrow.
With this result, the Sabercats will play at 9 a.m. EST tomorrow morning against #1 Randall University or #8 Kentucky Christian University. Catch the details of that game at mbusabercats.com/composite.