Three more fall as Bellarmine and West Chester are the last unbeaten squads in D2 hoops
Entering the weekend, there were only five undefeated NCAA Div. II basketball teams in the country, but in the course of 48 hours that number was reduced to two as previously unbeaten Dixie State lost a Friday afternoon contest at Western Oregon, third-ranked Indiana (Pa.) took it on the chin Saturday night at PSAC rival Shippensburg, and Drury University — a team we missed in earlier reporting — lost to Rollins last night in the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic.
Only top-ranked Bellarmine (8-0) and West Chester University (11-0) will ring in the New Year with perfect records.
Playing on the road in a relatively tough environment where it hadn’t won since 2013, sixth-ranked Dixie State (10-1) saw its season-opening ten-game winning streak snapped as senior Jaylyn Richardson scored a career–high 27 points as Western Oregon (6-2) shredded the previously undefeated Trailblazers 91-75.
A gallant comeback attempt by Dixie State, which whittled a staggering 66-40 deficit down to a dozen points with 9:54 remaining in the game, was too little, too late.
In pulling the upset, Western Oregon buried 14 shots from beyond the arc, or 41.2 percent of its 34 attempts.
“For the most part, we did our best of taking away Dixie’s ability to do what they wanted to do,” said elated first-year Western Oregon coach Wes Pifer, a former associate head coach at Northern Arizona of the Big Sky Conference. “One of the things I’m most proud of from today is we were 19-for-20 from the free throw line. For us to step up and put away a very good Dixie State team is a big moment.”
The loss ended DSU’s program record 23-game regular season winning streak.
Drury, too, lost for the first time on Saturday, losing to Rollins 72-67 in the first round of the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic. The 25th-ranked Panthers, who compete in the fourteen team Great Lakes Valley Conference, dropped to 7-1. They had lost an earlier game to Div. III Blackburn College — a team they walloped by 72 points two years ago — on Nov. 23rd, but that was considered an exhibition game and won’t count on their official record.
Third-ranked Indiana, Pa. (9-1) entered the weekend facing a pair of potentially difficult road games. The Crimson Hawks prevailed on Friday night, downing Shepherd 76-62, but couldn’t hold onto a five-point lead with 5:32 remaining on Saturday evening and fell to Shippensburg 69-66 as senior guard Malik Miller’s desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer bounced off the rim.
Playing a pair of home games, West Chester (11-0) was more fortunate over the weekend, narrowly defeating California University of Pennsylvania 82-81 in a Friday night thriller at the Hollinger Field House and routing visiting Slippery Rock 100-82 last night.
The Golden Rams joined No. 1 Bellarmine as one of only two undefeated Div. II teams in the nation heading into the New Year.
Three other teams that were expected to still be undefeated at this stage of the season recently had their unblemished records tarnished.
Defending national champion Northwest Missouri State was stunned by MIAA rival Central Missouri 72-60 in early December, ending the Bearcat’s 46-game winning streak. Jim Crutchfield’s high-powered Nova Southeastern squad, which was ranked No. 1 in the country at the time, was unexpectedly upended 86-85 at home by Rollins last Saturday, and tenth-ranked Dallas Baptist had its season opening nine-game winning streak shattered by hot-shooting Lone Star Conference rival Texas A&M-Commerce 102-78 on Thursday night.
The Lions shot a blistering 62 percent from the field in handing the Patriots their first loss of the season.