GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Thanks to a show-stopping first-half performance, the #8-seeded Sabercats have pulled off an upset to remember.
MBU knocked off the #1 seed and three-time defending national champion, Randall University, by a score of 73-62 to advance to the NCCAA Final Four. Maranatha will take on #4 Great Lakes Christian at 4:00 p.m. EST in tomorrow's national semifinal.
- Result: #8 Maranatha 73-62 #1 Randall
- Venue: Davis Field House, Bob Jones University
- Location: Greenville, S.C.
- Attendance: 209
- Records: MBU (16-9), RU (17-14)
Thanks to some determined defense from the Sabercats, the defending national champions didn't look so much of a #1 seed out of the gate. MBU seemed to be everywhere defensively, as they contested every three that Randall offered, forcing Randall to go 0-17 from downtown in the opening 20 minutes.
Another stat that represented the lopsided half was a 26-12 rebounding advantage for MBU. It was a case of Maranatha out-playing Randall in every facet of the game, and it looked for all the world like the seedings had been switched.
David Lerma was feeling it, as the senior led Maranatha with 15 points on 6-7 shooting - a contribution that would lead to a career-high of 27 points. Meanwhile, Jonathan Book was orchestrating everything, scoring seven points while dishing out three assists in the first half.
At halftime, the Sabercats had done something they hadn't done in recent program history: they held a team to less than 10 points in the opening 20 minutes.
Down and out? You'd think, but Randall looked dangerous in the opening stages of the second half, as they began to connect from beyond the arc. The Saints' defense stayed tight on the Sabercats, causing them to force the issue, and one thing became clear:
The defending national champs weren't going anywhere.
David Lerma and Stephen Wilkerson knocked down three-pointers at key times to negate the Randall momentum early on, but Randall got better and better from downtown. RU's Brandon Askew would go 7-10 from deep in the second half, which was part of a 13-21 team performance from beyond the arc.
The Saints persisted and clawed back to as close as nine points in the second half, but the Sabercats closed out the job, adding 37 points to their 36-point total from the first half.
Down the stretch, the Sabercats improved their clock management and would need free throws to seal the deal. Fittingly, it was Lerma who led MBU's 11-15 free-throw performance by going 5-5 from the line.
After a nerve-wracking second half, the Sabercats had knocked off the #1 seed, completed the upset, and secured a trip to the NCCAA Final Four.
MBU Starters: 3-Book, 15-Lerma, 22-Sonnenberg, 23-Wilkerson, 35-Gill // RU Starters: 1-Wilson, 3-Barnett, 5-Cubit, 10-Lyons, 15-Askew
- Lerma: 27 points (career-high)
- Book: 16 points, 6 assists
- MBU: season-low 7 turnovers
- MBU: 47.1 percent from downtown - their second-best mark this season
- 8-1 upsets: Randall was the last #8 seed to beat the #1 seed, doing so in 2015
- Series: this was the first-ever matchup between Maranatha and Randall
- Randall is the three-time defending NCCAA DII national champion
- RU is averaging 82.1 points per game, which is the best in the NCCAA DII
- The Saints captured the Southwest Region Championship to qualify for Nationals
The Sabercats will face #4 Great Lakes Christian tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. in the national semifinal. Follow at mbusabercats.com/composite.