KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Forget one if by land and two if by sea. Mountain State took the three-by-air route, nailing 13 three-pointers in an 84-71 win over unseeded Wayland Baptist in the NAIA Division I national tournament Sweet 16 Friday morning at Municipal Auditorium.

Seven different Cougars hit threes as MSU (32-2) advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2005. Ironically, No. 5 seed MSU will face No. 13 seed Azusa Pacific, the team that knocked the Cougars out of the tournament in the quarterfinals that season.

MSU tips off against Azusa at 2 p.m. in the first game of the quarterfinals.

MSU’s 13 treys were two more than Wayland Baptist attempted (3-of-11).

“We all have the green light to shoot the ball,” said 6-foot-9 post Jason McGriff, who had two in the first half. “And we can all shoot it. If it’s open, we’re shooting it.”

MSU opened up as much as an 11-point lead by hitting eight first-half threes but had to settle for a two point, 44-42 halftime lead, thanks in part to the inside play of Wayland Baptist post Danny Story, who had 19 first-half points and was almost unstoppable inside.

But the Cougars righted the defensive ship in the second half and used a 17-6 run to take a 61-48 lead.

Wayland Baptist (20-13) would get no closer than six after that.

Adron Marshall, held scoreless in the first half, hit three-pointers at each end of the second-half opening run and James Spencer seemed to ignite the run when he drove the baseline and delivered a powerful two-handed slam dunk.

“We talked about the threes prior to the game: Energy, enthusiasm and excitement,” MSU coach Bob Bolen said. “(Spencer) kind of got us back to that. It raised our level a little bit. When you get to this tournament, all the teams are so good. You have to find things like that to get you going at times.”

“That was like the snowball effect,” guard Ralph Legg said. “Once we saw him do that, we started picking it up, especially on defense.”

Spencer finished with a team-high 21 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals. Teammate Jarvis Jackson added 18 points and five assists, McGriff had 12 and six rebounds and Legg had 10 points off the bench.

Several other Cougars contributed, including Tyrice Watkins, who had nine points. He had been held scoreless the last two games.

“I didn’t put any pressure on myself because of (the last two games),” Watkins said. “I guess you could say I finally got back in the flow. But that’s not what it’s about for me. Ermin (Tarcin) had played well in those games. The important thing is to win, any way we have to do it.”

Legg was also scoreless in the first tournament game, an 85-76 double-overtime win over Olivet Nazarene.

“I just want to win,” said Legg, who started at point guard last year. “(Not starting) was an adjustment at first. But I just want to play my role, pass the ball, shoot it, play defense — whatever it takes to win the title is what I want to do.”

“Ralph went in the game and gave us a spark,” Bolen said. “He helped us out playing defense, he took a charge (for the second game) and made some shots. And it wasn’t easy because we had him playing three different positions.”

Wayland Baptist cut the Cougars’ lead to six, 68-62, with 7:49 left. Jackson hit a three before a Pioneer deuce made it 71-64. But a 7-0 run, including a trey by Spencer, made it a 14-point Cougar lead with four minutes left.

“We told our kids before the game that it was going to be a game of runs,” Wayland Baptist coach Robert Davenport said. “We couldn’t get too dejected when they made runs and we couldn’t get too high when we made a run. The bottom line is, they made shots. They were 13-of-30 from three and we were 3-of-11. That was the bottom line.”

Bolen and several MSU players didn’t have to search long for the reason the team shot better than it did in the opening tournament game.

“When you play the first game of the session, you get 30 minutes to warm up, rather than the 10 minutes before the other games,” Bolen said. “And we utilized the entire 30 minutes. And I thought that really paid off.”

MSU finished the game hitting 13-of-30 threes (.433). Overall, MSU shot .485 (32-66).

After initially falling behind by 10-2 (two of Wayland Baptist’s three 3s came on its first two shots of the game), MSU started blistering the nets.

Legg, Watkins, Tarcin, McGriff and Jackson had consecutive threes on a 15-4 run that made a 25-25 tie a 40-29 Cougars lead.

But big Danny Storey, a career 1,000-point scorer and rebounder, had a run of his own for Wayland Baptist, scoring nine points on a first half-ending 13-4 run to close the half 44-42 MSU.

“He plays hard and is such a warrior,” Bolen said. “He battles every possession. I think we did a better job on post defense in the second half on him, especially in our help rotation.”

Storey finished with a game-high 26 points and nine rebounds. Kris Hatley added 12 points and five assists and Mike Polanowski had 11 points.

MSU is now 30-0 when it scores more than 80 points in a game.



WAYLAND BAPTIST (20-13)

Jason Griffin 2-7 0-0 5, Tony Jones 2-7 0-0 4, Kris Hatley 5-10 0-0 12, Danny Storey 7-11 12-15 26, Mical Polanowski 4-4 3-4 11, Josh Teague 0-0 0-0 0, Teddy Chambers 2-3 0-0 4, Tyrone Crawford 3-5 0-0 6, Jon Hurt 0-2 0-0 0, Desmond Dickson 0-2 0-0 0, B.J. Latham 1-1 1-2 3. Totals 26-52 16-21 71.

MOUNTAIN STATE (32-2)

James Spencer 9-18 0-0 21, Jarvis Jackson 6-10 4-4 18, Tyrice Watkins 4-8 0-0 9, Adron Marshall 2-6 2-2 8, Jason McGriff 5-7 0-0 12, Ralph Legg 4-10 0-0 10, Denzel Lyles 0-2 0-0 0, Papa Gassama 0-1 0-0 0, Rod Green 0-0 0-0 0, Ermin Tarcin 2-4 1-2 6. Totals 32-66 7-8 84.

Halftime—MSU 44-42. 3-Point Goals—Wayland 3-11 (Griffin 1-4, Jones 0-1, Hatley 2-3, Chambers 0-1, Hurt 0-2); MSU 13-30 (Spencer 3-10, Jackson 2-3, Watkins 1-4, Marshall 2-3, McGriff 2-2, Legg 2-4, Lyles 0-2, Tarcin 1-2). Fouled Out—none. Rebounds—Wayland 30 (Storey 9); MSU 34 (Jackson, McGriff 6). Assists—Wayland 12 (Hatley 5); MSU 16 (Jackson 5). Total Fouls—Wayland 13; MSU 19. Technicals—none. A—2,800.

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