SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- Colton Kooima (30) and Nathan Wedel (24) combined for 54 points to lead Northwestern College past the Bellevue University men's basketball team 75-62 on Wednesday evening in the first round of the 2018 NAIA Division II Men's Basketball National Championship at the Sanford Pentagon.
Northwestern (26-6) advances to the Sweet 16 where they will meet Saint Francis (Ind.) – who defeated Keiser, 83-73, earlier in the evening – on Friday at noon. Bellevue concludes their season with a 21-12 overall record.
Out of the under-five minute media timeout Wedel converted and old-fashioned three-point play to give Northwestern a two possession advantage. Nick Hilton scored at the other end for BU but five-straight points from Kooima put the Red Raiders up by seven, their largest advantage of the night, 67-60 with just 3:30 to play and the Bruins never got closer than seven the rest of the way.
BU got off to an ideal start, hitting six of their first seven field goal attempts to grab a 14-5 lead by the 16:39 mark. Five-straight points from Richard Reed stretched the Bruins lead to 12, their largest of the first half, with 8:54 to go.
Bellevue out-shot the Red Raiders 50.0-48.2 percent as they built a 42-36 halftime lead. A 5-of-12 effort from beyond the arc (compared to NWC's 1-9 performance) in the first period coupled with a 13-4 advantage in hustle points (second chance points and points off turnovers) helped the Bruins get ahead early and keep Northwestern at arm's length.
Reed led the Bruins with 10 points at the break. He was backed by eight points from Austin Moore along with six others who found their way into the scoring column for BU. Brandon Fagins led the team with four rebounds.
Colton Kooima paced Northwestern with 12 first half points and Nathan Wedel added 11 first half points and led all players with seven rebounds.
Northwestern opened the second half on a 13-2 run to go up 49-44. They tied the game on a three from Kooima, who scored 11 points during the run, before a bucket by Steven Kragt gave NWC their first lead since it was 2-0 just 18 seconds into the game.
The Bruins countered by scoring 12-straight points in a span of 4:17, capped by a fast-break basket from Jaffery Stillman, to take a seven-point lead heading into the final 10:45.
The Red Raiders came back with a 6-0 run of their own regaining the lead on a three-pointer from Wedel with 8:40 to play, taking a 57-56 lead.
Bellevue was just 1-of-16 from deep in the second half as they managed to score just 20 points in the period.
Reed finished with a team-best 13 points for the Bruins while Jalen Hall dropped in 12 points on the night. Fagins finished with nine boards to lead BU.