POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. -- Despite a spirited effort the 22nd-ranked Bellevue University men's basketball team fell to second-ranked Cornerstone University, 69-57, on Monday evening in the semi-finals of the NAIA Division II Men's Basketball National Tournament.
Bellevue sees their Cinderella season come to an end with an overall record 25-11
Cornerstone (34-3) advances to play Union (Ky.) in tomorrow evening's National Championship Game at 6 p.m. Union will be looking for their first-ever National Championship in men's basketball while Cornerstone will be seeking their fourth.
After a Jalen Hall basket with 12:06 to play, Cornerstone closed the game on a 22-10 run to secure the 12-point victory in what was yet another close game at the National Tournament for the Bruins.
Cornerstone started strong by grabbing a 19-9 lead by the 11:40 mark of the opening half keyed by Kyle Steigenga's team-high 10 points in the period.
Bellevue, as they have done throughout the National Tournament, was undeterred by the early deficit and battled back with a 10-0 run over a span of just 2:44 to tie the game at 19-19 on a basket from Jaffrey Stillman.
Bellevue and Cornerstone played to a stalemate over the remainder of the half and headed into the locker rooms tied 29-29. Stillman and Jerred Cook led the Bruins with six points in the first 20 minutes while Mike Cardenas pulled down a team-leading seven rebounds.
With offense at a premium and both teams excelling on the defensive end, both BU and the Golden Eagles shot an identical 38.2 percent (13-for-34) in the first half with Cornerstone grabbing a narrow rebounding advantage, paced by Sam Vander Sluis' 10 boards.
The play early on in the second half remained very even with both teams matching each other almost shot for shot. Neither team could get a two-score separation until the 7:20 mark on a Vander Sluis layup gave Cornerstone a 56-51 advantage.
Steigenga led all scorers with 19 points for the Golden Eagles as he notched a double-double finishing with 11 rebounds. Cory Cox poured in 14 points in support while Vander Sluis also finished with a double-double with totals of 12 points and 13 rebounds.
Bellevue was led by Nick Hilton's 13 points while Hall chipped in 11 and Stillman finished with 10 and matched Cardenas with a team-best seven rebounds.
Cornerstone out-shot BU 45.3-37.9 percent in the game and finished with a 43-32 rebounding advantage which saw the Golden Eagles rack up a 15-6 edge in second change points.
For a Bellevue team that won the NSAA Regular-Season and Tournament Championships, reached the program's first Final Four since 2010, and have just three seniors on the roster the Bruins have an opportunity to build around a talented and experienced core headed into the 2017/18 season as one of the favorites nationally.
- Bellevue reached their first Final Four since 2010 and fourth overall (2004, 2008)
- BU falls to 0-2 all-time against Cornerstone in the National Tournament
- The Bruins are now 24-18 (.571) all-time in the National Tournament
- Bellevue finishes the season with an 8-5 record against teams ranks or receiving votes