POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. -- Jalen Hall's finger roll with 6.8 seconds to play lifted the sixth-seeded Bellevue University men's basketball team to an upset over top-seeded Bethel (Ind.) College, 77-75 in overtime, on Saturday evening in the quarterfinal round of the NAIA Division II National Tournament at Keeter Gymnasium on the campus of the College of the Ozarks.
BU called a timeout with 17.0 seconds on the clock to set up a play on the offensive end and Jalen Hall took his man off the dribble to make a finger roll and put the Bruins up 77-75.
Bethel called a timeout after advancing the ball into the frontcourt with 4.4 seconds to set up the final shot of overtime. The Pilots drew up a play where Coon handed the ball off to Yeo but his open look hit off the front of the rim and Nick Hilton came down with the rebound to secure the win.
It was the second game in a row in which Bellevue overcame a 15-plus point deficit in the second half after bouncing back from being down by 16 in the Sweet Sixteen.
With the victory Bellevue (25-10) advances to Monday's Final Four where they will meet Cornerstone University at 8 p.m. for the right to play for a National Title. This will be the fourth Final Four that the Bruins have reached in program history. BU advanced to the National Championship game in 2004 and 2008 and played in the semi-finals in 2010.
Following the defeat Bethel concludes their season with an overall record of 31-4.
Bethel couldn't miss in the early going, jumping out to a 26-17 lead in just the first 8:45 of the game. Bellevue hung around, however, never letting the Pilots pull more than eight points ahead.
The defense took hold later in the first half with the Bruins holding Bethel scoreless for a span of 4:21 to pull within a point at 26-25 with 7:21 showing in the first half. From there the Pilots closed the half with a 12-7 spell to take a 38-32 lead into intermission.
Bethel's Jordyn Coon led all scorers with 11 first half points and was joined in double-figures by teammate Nick Kindig. BU's Hilton (9), Mike Cardenas (8), and Hall (7) combined for 24 of the Bruins' points in the first half. Bethel finished the half shooting 57.7 percent from the field to Bellevue's 44.8 percent effort. Both teams hit six trifectas in the first 20 minutes with the Pilots accomplishing the feat on 10 attempts to Bellevue's 15 tries.
Bethel scored the first nine points of the second half in just 1:40 of game time to turn a six-point lead to a 15-point advantage but Bellevue tightened up on the defensive end. The Bruins went on a 17-5 run and closed to within a single possession at 52-49 on a three from Hilton with 12:36 to play.
BU battled all the way back to take their first lead since 12-11 on the sixth three-pointer from Hilton to go up 57-56 at the 9:18 mark. A turnover by the Pilots at the other end and a foul on the ensuing BU possession prompted Bethel to use a timeout.
Bethel seemed to regain some control when they went up by four on a completed and-one play from Clay Yeo with 4:25 to play to put the Pilots up 63-59. However, Bellevue, as they have all post-season, refused to go away and back-to-back threes from Hilton and Cardenas put Bellevue up 67-65 with 1:43 to go.
With 53.9 seconds showing and Bethel trailing by three points Yeo made a basket and drew a foul for the Pilots with a chance to tie the game. He made the free throw to tie the game and set up a thrilling finish.
Blake Wilder posted up Paul Forman – to whom he surrendered four inches (6'4" vs. 6'8") – on the offensive end on the next possession and hit a baby hook in the lane after taking a pass from Hall to give the Bruins a 70-68 lead.
Yeo matched it at the other end with a driving layup to tie the game at 70-all. A missed three from Hilton gave Bethel a chance for the win but Kindig's three-point attempt hit off the iron and caromed to the Bruins who called timeout with just 0.3 seconds showing on the game clock but without enough time to get a shot off the game progressed to overtime.
In overtime Bethel struck on their first possession on a lay-in by Gage Ott. It took a couple possessions but Bellevue tied the game on a lay-up by Jaffrey Stillman after Hilton was doubled on the block.
After a defensive stop Hilton drained a three-pointer as Jerred Cook passed out of a double team to give BU their first lead of the extra period. Yeo answered back for the Pilots with a basket ahead of a Bethel timeout.
A loose ball foul after a Bethel miss gave the Pilots a pair of free throw attempts which Yeo went 1-for-2 on to tie the game at 75-75 with 35.1 seconds left. That set up the final possession for each team where Hall made his lay-in for the Bruins and Yeo missed a three-pointer for Bethel.
Hilton scored a game-high 26 points on a blistering 8-of-11 effort from beyond the arc while Cardenas and Wilder each scored 14 points for Bellevue and pulled down six and four rebounds, respectively. Hall's winning basket accounted for his only points after halftime as he finished with nine points and three assists. Stillman added six points and eight boards in the win.
Bellevue overcame a 4-of-12 effort at the free throw line and a 48-34 rebounding advantage that went Bethel's way. The Bruins took exceptional care of the basketball with just nine turnovers in the game while forcing Bethel into 23 turnovers which they turned into a 15-7 advantage at the other end.
Yeo dropped in a team-leading 20 points and pulled down six rebounds for the Pilots. Coon added 18 points; Gage Ott recorded a double-double finishing with 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Kindig finished with 10 points after being held scoreless in the second half.
- This was the first overtime game of the 2017 National Tournament
- Bellevue is now 24-17 (.585) all-time in the NAIA National Tournament
- The Final Four appearance is the first for the Bruins since 2010 and fourth overall (2004, 2008)
- Bellevue and Cornerstone have met just once prior, an 84-75 win for Cornerstone in the 2003 National Tournament