KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)Jake O’Neil has 15 points and 12 rebounds and College of Idaho blew most of a 23-point second-half lead before holding on to beat Indiana Tech 73-71 Saturday night in the NAIA national championship game.
College of Idaho (36-1) has won 36 games in a row – a program record and the longest active win streak in men’s college basketball (all divisions) – since a season-opening 82-78 loss at Arizona Christian.
“That was incredible,” Yotes coach Colby Blaine said. “What a finish.”
It is the program’s second national title. College of Idaho won the NAIA Division II championship in 1996.
Tyler Robinette hit two 3-pointers in a 10-2 opening run and College of Idaho never trailed. O’Neil grabbed offensive rebound and scored the putback and Robinette made another 3 to spark a 9-0 run that made it 19-4 about seven minutes, and the Yotes took a 52-29 lead when Charles Elzie hit a 3-pointer with 17:04 to play.
Indiana Tech (32-5), which had won five in a row, scored 13 of the next 17 points and Jeremy Luciani’s layup midway through the second half trimmed the deficit to 10 points. Blake Davison scored the Warriors’ first five points in a 12-2 run that cut it a two-point game with a minute to go and Grant Smith made 1-of-2 free throws to make it 72-71 with 12 seconds left.
Smith missed a potential tying jumper just before the buzzer.
“This is the toughest team I’ve ever coached,” Blaine said.
Samaje Morgan scored 13 points, Robinette added 11, including three 3-pointers, and Elzie added 10 points for College of Idaho.
Rog Stein led Indiana Tech with 18 points and eight rebounds. Davison and Max Perez added 12 points apiece and Josh Kline had 11 points and eight boards.
The Warriors, who set the program’s single-season wins record, rallied from a 16-point deficit to beat Georgetown College 80-71 in the semifinals to reach the championship game for the first time in school history.
College of Idaho led by as many as 23 in the second half of its 73-72 win over Ottawa (Arizona) in the semifinals.
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