Unbeaten Bearcats claim second D-II title in three seasons

Posted at 4:36 PM, Mar 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-30 17:44:09-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Northwest Missouri State men's basketball are national champions again.

The Bearcats (38-0) salted away a second NCAA Division II title in three seasons Saturday with a 64-58 victory against Point Loma (California) Nazarene at the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana.

Led by senior guard Joey Witthus, Northwest Missouri became the first undefeated D-II champion since 2009 and the fifth overall.

"To go undefeated, starting two freshman and a sophomore, is unreal," Northwest coach Ben McCollum said.

The Bearcats lost four veteran leaders from its 2017 championship and 2018 NCAA tournament teams, but it didn't prevent a dominant season.

Witthus scored 24, while Diego Bernard added 14 points, Trevor Hudgins scored 12 with a game-high six assists, and Ryan Hawkins chipped in nine points with a game-best 12 rebounds.

Witthus, Hudgins and Hawkins each played the entire 40 minutes for Northwest Missouri, which led 33-29 at halftime.

The Bearcats shot 8 of 18 from three-point range compared with the Sea Lions going 3 of 17 from deep in the win.

Findlay (Ohio), which went 36-0 in 2009, was the last undefeated D-II national champion. Fort Hays State (34-0 in 1996), Cal State Bakersfield (33-0 in 1993) and Evansville (29-0 in 1965) are the only other unbeaten champs.

The Bearcats also tied last season's champion, Ferris State (38-1), for the most wins in Division II history.

Division II player of the year Daulton Hommes, who led the Pacific West Conference in scoring at 21.7 points per game, scored 26 points for Point Loma (31-5). Preston Beverly added 15 points with nine rebounds.

It was Point Loma's first title game in just its second NCAA tournament appearance.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.