POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. -- Tournament favorites haven't fared so well at the 22nd Annual NAIA Division II Men's Basketball National Championship, and tonight's match up between 12th-seeded Mount Mercy and 21st-ranked St. Thomas (Fla.) was no exception.
The Bobcats started the game by hitting five of their first six 3-point attempts and led for all but two minutes in an 85-72 victory over the Mustangs in a first round match up at Keeter Gymnasium on the campus of College of the Ozarks (Mo.).
St. Thomas took the lead for good at the 17:19 mark of the first period and used an 11-0 run to take a 16-7 advantage with less than 15 minutes to go in the half. Trailing 27-16, Mount Mercy scored 10 straight points to get within one, 27-26.
Momentum swung back to the Bobcats, however, as they led by as many as 13 points before settling for a 43-35 edge at the break. The Mustangs only trailed by two, 45-43, in the early moments of the second period but were never able to draw even.
St. Thomas eventually cooled off from 3-point range, but finished 8-of-19 from beyond the arc and got a whopping 49 points from its reserves. John Nunnally poured in 25 points off the bench for the Bobcats. Kevin Hincapie added 15, Davorn Bryant 11 and Khaalis Coppock-Bey 10.
Mount Mercy senior forward Chad Underwood shared game-high honors with 25 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked two shots. He ends his career as the second-leading scorer in school history with 1,780 points and ranks second all-time in blocks (129) and fifth in rebounds (666).
Senior guard Lamar Wall added 20 points and a pair of steals, junior forward LaDon Singleton 11 points, six boards and a pair of steals. Junior guard Bobby Sherwood gave the Mustangs seven points, six rebounds and game-high five assists.
Mount Mercy was one of seven seeded teams to fall in the first 14 games of the tournament. The Mustangs (27-6), making the second national tournament appearance in program history, finish the year with the second-most wins in school history.