YORK, Neb. -- Nick Hilton made his only points of the night count as his three-pointer from the corner gave the Bruins a lead with 1:30 to play and York didn't score again as the 4th-ranked Bellevue University men's basketball team defeated (RV) York College, 71-67, on Friday evening at the Freeman Center in the York Classic in the season-opener for both teams.
With the victory, Bellevue improves to 7-3 in season-openers under Coach Shane Paben.
Both teams struggled offensively as they combined to shoot just 37.5 percent in the first half. York shot slightly better at 37.8 percent to Bellevue's 37.1 percent percent output. BU kept it close late into the half with their free throw shooting, hitting at a 80.0 (12-of-15) percent rate from the line to York's 22.2 (2-of-9) percent before taking a 41-34 advantage into the locker room.
Andrew Saunders led the Bruins with nine points in the first half while Jalen Hall chipped in seven and Austin Moore contributed six. Blake Wilder and BJ Shelton were the Bruins' top rebounders in the period with seven and six, respectively.
York was led, offensively, by Michael Johnson who scored 12 points in the opening 20 minutes. Chris Smith added five points for the Panthers and no one else scored more than three.
Throughout the second half York chipped away at the Bruin lead before finally taking a lead at 56-55 with 8:05 to play. The lead was short-lived as Bellevue scored the next five points to reestablish their lead, 60-56, and prompt York to take a timeout with 6:41 to play.
BU maintained their lead until Johnson hit a jumper to tie the game at 65-65 with 2:52 left. A turnover on the ensuing Bruin possession allowed York to reclaim the lead, 67-65 with 2:01 to play, with a pair of free throws from Mark Dean.
Hilton hit a three with 1:30 left then, after a pair of empty possessions, Jalen Hall went to the line for the Bruins and hit two shots to stretch the lead to 70-67 with 31.5 seconds remaining.
York had a good chance to tie the game but Johnson's three-pointer with 17 seconds left hit off the back iron and was rebounded by Austin Moore who hit one of two free throws at the other end to make it a two possession game.
A York turnover allowed the Bruins to ice the game and gave Bellevue the season-opening win.
The game was a rematch of last year's NAIA Tournament Sweet 16 game which was won by Bellevue, 78-76.
Moore led the Bruins with 13 points and 12 rebounds as he recorded his first career double-double. Saunders and Hall joined Moore in double figures with 12 points apiece while Blake Wilder added 11 rebounds to go along with eight points.
York was led by Johnson's 25-point performance. Dean (9 points), Roc Johnson (8 points), and Trevor Lenear (7 points) also featured in the offense for York. Patrick Burnett led the Panthers with 10 rebounds.
Bellevue out-shot York by the narrowest of margins 31.3-31.2 percent on the night but used their advantage at the free throw line (74.3-54.6 percent) to put the Panthers away.
The Bruins continue play at the York Classic when they take on Friends University at 3 p.m. tomorrow afternoon.