Posted: Feb 26, 2013 12:50 PM
CANTON, MO -- No. 25 Culver-Stockton (Mo.) outscored Central Methodist by 14 points in the second half Monday to pull away for a 78-62 win in the Heart of America Athletic Conference men's basketball regular-season finale for both teams.
The Wildcats (23-7, 14-4 HAAC) end a four-game win streak by Central Methodist (18-12, 11-7 HAAC) and 12-game losing streak to the Eagles, who claim the four-seed for the HAAC Tournament. The Green and Black and will host fifth-seed Benedictine (Kan.) on Thursday evening inside Puckett Fieldhouse. Culver-Stockton also clinches an automatic berth to the 2013 NAIA Division I National Championship.
The Eagles opened on the game on a 7-0 run and led 10-3 three minutes in following Melvin Tillman's three from the corner. A fastbreak layup in the paint by Central Methodist's Robert Mason made the score 21-15 with seven minutes on the clock.
The Wildcats responded and eventually took their first lead off a trey by James Johnson, 29-27, with 2:22 on the clock. Tillman hit a three at the 30 second mark, but the Eagles trailed 34-32 at the break.
Culver-Stockton opened the second half with an 11-2 spurt in the span of 3:50, grabbing a 45-34 edge after a C.J. Adams free throw. A Marshawn Norris jumper put the Wildcats up 13, 51-38, five minutes later.
Michael Banks, Jr. hit back-to-back threes in transition as part of an 8-0 run midway through the half. Cody Anderson found Derek Kitch with a no-look pass in the paint to cut the deficit to 51-46. Banks, Jr. made another three at the seven minute mark to cut the deficit to four, 59-55.
Culver-Stockton answered by outscoring the Green and Black 12-5 over the next five minutes to pull away. Norris hit a trey to put the home team up 71-60 with 2:15 left in the game.
Austin Keaton (25) and Norris (20) combined for 45 points on 13-of-32 shooting and 7-of-20 from deep. Johnson added 10 points.
Banks, Jr. led the Eagles offensively with 13 points and four (4-of-8) made threes. Tillman and Elliott Black added 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Both teams made nine threes in the game, but Culver-Stockton was 15-of-21 from the free throw line, while the Eagles got to the line only six times, making five attempts.