The UA-Fort Smith men’s basketball team saw its season come to an end in the first round of the Division II NCAA Tournament Saturday with a 72-66 loss to Midwestern State at the Auraria Events Center in Denver, Colo.
Trailing by 12 points with less than six minutes left in the game, the Lions rallied to cut the deficit to as few as two points with 32 seconds left but got no closer.
Midwestern State (23-7) will play the winner between No. 2 seed Tarleton State and No. 7 seed Texas A&M International at 6 p.m. in the semifinals of the region tournament. UAFS, which was making its first-ever appearance in the national tournament since becoming an active NCAA Division II member three seasons ago, ended its season at 21-7.
UAFS trailed 41-36 at halftime, then took the game over the next five minutes, scoring 10 unanswered points.
Freshman guard Alex Cooper scored on a layup to pull the Lions with 66-64 with 32 seconds left.
Midwestern State stretched its lead back to four points on a pair of free throws with 30 seconds left, but Cooper answered with a jumper to again pull the Lions within two points (68-66) with 16 seconds left.
UAFS fouled Midwestern State’s Monzaigo Williams immediately to stop the clock, and Williams sank both free throws. Cooper, who had a career-high 26 points in the loss to UTPB, missed a 3-pointer with nine seconds left.
UAFS shot just 34 percent from the field (22 for 64) – it was 6-for-21 shooting from 3-point range – and shot 70 percent from the free-throw line (16 for 23). Cooper and freshman guard Seth Youngblood had 13 points apiece, while Toupal and junior guard Blake Branham had 12 and 11 points, apiece.