UAFS Falls In Opening Round Of Division II NCAA Tournament

-UAFS Sports Information

GOLDEN, COLO. (KFSM) –  A strong shooting performance by Colorado School of Mines proved to be too much for UAFS to overcome Saturday night during the first round of the NCAA Division II National Tournament.

The No. 1 seed Orediggers shot 59 percent from the field on their home floor to beat the No. 8 seed Lions 90-79 in South Central Region play at Lockridge Arena in Golden, Colo.

Colorado School of Mines (28-4), which is ranked No. 11 nationally, will play the winner of Saturday’s late game between No. 4 seed Tarleton State and No. 5 seed Fort Lewis at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday in the region semifinals.

UAFS (23-11), which was making its third overall and second-consecutive appearance in the national tournament, finished the season with its most wins ever during its NCAA Division II era. The Lions, who won a share of the Heartland Conference regular-season title and won the conference tournament, also finished the year winning 10 of its last 11 games.

Colorado School of Mines shot 52 percent from the field in the first half (15 of 29) in building a narrow 40-39 halftime lead, and the Orediggers, who won the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference regular-season and conference tournament titles, shot a gaudy 67 percent from the field in the second half (16 of 24) in building a double-digit lead.

The Orediggers shot only 45 percent from 3-point range (9 of 20) and just 76 percent from the free-throw line (19 of 25).

Guard Gokul Natesan led the Orediggers with 20 points, while center Ben Clare had 17, guard Luke Schroepfer 14, forward Caleb Waitsman 13 and guard Kaan Korkmaz 11. Seven Orediggers had two or more assists with Schroepfer dishing out a team-high seven assists.

The Orediggers out-rebounded the Lions by 10 rebounds (35-25) with Clare collecting a team-high nine rebounds.

UAFS shot 52 percent from the field in the first half (16 of 31) and 43 percent in the second half (12 of 28). The Lions shot just 33 percent from 3-point range (7 of 21) and 76 percent from the free-throw line (16 of 21).

Guard DaVaunta Thomas came off the bench to score a team-high 17 points, while guard Alex Cooper had 16, guard Ladarius Coleman 12 and guards Seth Youngblood and Kyree Elder 10 apiece. Five Lions had at least two assists with Cooper dishing out a team-high four assists.

Thomas had a team-high seven rebounds.

UAFS forced 16 Colorado School of Mines turnovers that led to 22 points. Cooper had a team-leading three steals.