The Huntington University men's basketball team couldn't overcome poor three-point shooting and second half turnovers, falling to Southeastern University, 84-76, in the first round of the NAIA Division II Men's Basketball National Championship Tournament on Wednesday, March 12, at College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, MO.
The 16th-seeded Foresters clicked on only 2 of 14 attempts from beyond the arc for 14.3 percent and coughed up the ball 12 times in the final frame to dash their dreams of a title run and end the season at 24-8.
It was the Foresters' eighth time competing on the national stage, where they've posted 11 wins against eight losses.
Though Coach Ty Platt's squad misfired on all six of its long-range tries in the first half, it committed only four turnovers and got 18 points and nine rebounds from senior Shane Merryman to take a 36-29 lead at the break.
Merryman accounted for half of Huntington's points during a 12-0 scoring spree that turned a 17-16 disadvantage at 9:04 into a 28-17 lead with a little over five minutes until halftime. Freshman Derek Hinen supplemented Merryman's offensive output with four points and fellow frosh Daniel Woll chipped in two.
The Fire, seeded 18th, wasted no time in the second half cutting into the Foresters' advantage, opening on an 8-0 run that put them up 37-36 two minutes into the period. Southeastern increased its advantage to 10, 68-58, by the 6:26 mark, but Huntington managed to cut that cushion in half to trail only 70-65 with 3:32 left.
But that's as close as the Foresters would get, as the Fire responded with a timely 7-0 points binge that coincided with a pair of Huntington turnovers to build a 77-65 lead with 1:17 remaining and hold on for the eight-point win.
Merryman topped out at 28 points on 11 of 14 shooting. Woll finished with 14 points and junior Alec Peterson supplied 10 as the Foresters shot 30 of 59 for 50.8 percent and 14 for 21 from the free throw line for 66.7 percent.
Dwayne Johnson was Southeastern's rock, knocking down 10 of 17 from the field along with all nine of his tries from the stripe to produce 29 points. Jake Hodges netted 14 points and Brandon Moore added 10.
The Fire converted 30 of 56 field goals for 53.6 percent and 14 of 17 freebies for 70.8 percent on the way to improving to 25-6.
Behind Merryman's game-high nine boards, Huntington enjoyed a 39-23 advantage on the glass.