BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. Fairmont State press release:
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- Top-seeded and No. 3-ranked Fairmont State jumped out to a 43-20 lead in the opening 16 minutes of Thursday's national semifinal against Bellarmine, and held off the Knights in the second half to advance to the 2017 NCAA Division II National Championship Game with a 79-68 victory at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.
FSU will now battle Northwest Missouri State for the NCAA Division II National Championship on Saturday afternoon here in Sioux Falls, S.D. The game is set to tip at 3 p.m. (ET) and will be televised live on CBS.
The national championship appearance is the first in program history since the school joined NCAA Division II. The program did advance to the NAIA National Championship Game under legendary head coach Joe Retton in 1968, eventually falling to Central State, 51-48.
D'Ondre Stockman, a Division III transfer from Marymount, recorded a career-high 23 points on a 5-of-6 performance from behind the arc in the victory. Jason Jolly also chipped in 16 points and five assists and Matt Bingaya notched 14 points, four assists and four steals despite battling foul trouble for the second-consecutive game. Thomas Wimbush also dropped in 13 points for the Falcons, including 10 in the second half.
After jumping out to their largest lead of the game (43-20), Fairmont State managed just three points (a three by Vonte Montgomery), over the next eight minutes of play to allow the Knights to close a 20-point halftime deficit into an 11-point game at the 16:07 mark of the second half (46-35).
Bellarmine shot 57.7 percent in the second half to help the Knights stay within striking distance after a dismal first half.
Fairmont State ended Bellarmine's 15-3 scoring run over an eight-minute stretch with a 7-0 run of its own to push its advantage back to 18 (53-35) with 14:57 to play.
However, Bellarmine continued to shoot well late in the second half, trimming Fairmont's advantage to single digits on three occasions.
Despite Bellarmine's effort in the second half, the Knight never got closer than an eight-point deficit before Fairmont grabbed a double-digit lead for good at the 6:56 mark on a layup by Jolly.
Fairmont State shot 45.9 percent from the field in the win, including a 50 percent clip in the opening half. FSU also passed out 20 assists on 28 field goals and turned the ball over just 11 times. The Falcons drained 13 three-pointers in the victory, shooting 46.4 percent from behind the arc (13-of-28).
After nearly a flawless performance in Wednesday's quarterfinal against Colorado-Mines, the Knights struggled with Fairmont's relentless pressure early in the game and made just four three-pointers against the Falcons on Thursday evening. Bellarmine turned the ball over 17 times in the loss, including 12 times in the opening 20 minutes.
Adam Eberhard and Rusty Troutman each scored 15 points apiece to lead the Knights. Eberhard also pulled down 13 points and passed out nine assists, just missing a triple-double. Al Davis rounded out three Knights in double-figures with 11.
Bellarmine wrapped up its season with a 32-4 overall record.
Note: The Falcons have now won by double-figures in four of their five NCAA Tournament games this season, holding all but one opponent under 70 points.