FREMONT, Neb. -- Buoyed by a nearly 66 percent effort from the floor in the second half and overtime, the Bellevue University men's basketball team rallied from as many as 23 points down to defeat Midland University 101-98 in double overtime on Sunday afternoon at the Draemel Classic inside the Wikert Event Center.
Recap: Bellevue 101, Midland 98 (2OT)
Midland came out hot from the field as the Warriors raced to a 30-10 lead before eight minutes had elapsed from the game clock. Laurence Merritt led the charge with 16 points, including four three-pointers during that span.
Jacob Lenagh hit the first of two free throws with 10:16 to play to give Midland took their largest lead of the game at 33-10.
The Bruins worked the lead down to 16 points when Niamey Harris hit the second of two free throws with 40 seconds left in the half but a three-pointer from Kylan Smallwood put the Warriors up 50-31 at halftime.
Out of the break, Bellevue trimmed the lead to 11 points on a jumper from Hayes but Lenagh answered with a layup at the other end to put Midland back up by 13.
BU went on a tear from there. Hayes' layup sparked a 17-3 run that saw Bellevue take their first lead of the game. Isaiah Bates put an exclamation mark on the run, catching a lob pass from King behind his body and slamming home a dunk to put BU up 62-61 with 7:29 to play.
Trailing 74-70 with 2:32 to play, King hit the first of two free throws to pull Bellevue within a possession.
Following three-straight empty possessions, Bellevue's Jaron Dickson hit a three-pointer with 46 seconds left in regulation to tie the game. A missed jumper from Merritt for Midland allowed Bellevue the final possession but Dickson's contested three was off the mark.
Midland scored the first eight points of the first overtime period as the Warriors looked poised to run away with the victory. Layups on three of the next four BU possessions, coupled with three-straight Warrior turnovers, had Bellevue back in the game, trailing just 82-80.
With 2.7 seconds showing on the clock, King found Hayes with a pass that Hayes muscled in to tie the game and force a second overtime period.
Connor Dukes and Bowen Sandquist traded three-pointers to open the second overtime as BU and Midland went blow-for-blow before King gave the Bruins a two-possession lead with a driving layup at the 2:04 mark.
Merritt responded by hitting his seventh – and final – three-pointer of the night at the other end. Back-to-back driving layups from King, sandwiched around a Smallwood turnover, saw Bellevue seize command, 96-91 with 35 seconds left.
BU closed the game by hitting on five of six free throw attempts in the final 18.6 seconds to seal the victory.
King finished an assist short of a double-double as he totaled 32 points on 13-of-19 shooting to go along with nine assists, the highest tally for a Bruin in either category this season. Hayes poured in 22 points on an efficient 10-of-16 day from the floor.
Merritt dropped in a game-high 37 points to lead five Warriors in double figures. Sandquist (18), Smallwood (13), Lenagh (11), and Emanuel Bryson (10) all joined him with double-digit scoring games. Smallwood netted a double-double, finishing with a game-high 12 rebounds.
It marks the second time in the span of just over two weeks that Bellevue came back from at least a 19-point second half deficit to win a game.
Bellevue travels to Madison, S.D. on Saturday, Dec. 7 for their conference-opener against Dakota State. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. from inside the DSU Fieldhouse.