(Photo Courtesy of SCACsports.com)
SEGUIN, Texas – A thrilling Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) Tournament ended on Sunday with the fifth-seeded University of Dallas men's basketball team unable to pull its third upset in as many days to second-seeded Texas Lutheran University in a double overtime, 99-95, final in the SCAC Men's Basketball Championship. This was the first SCAC Men's Basketball Championship to go two extra stanzas.
Michael Wambsganss (Denver, Colo.) shot lights out making his first 10 field goal attempts and finishing with 35 points and 13 rebounds for career-highs. He and Joshua Nunn (St. Louis, Mo.) were named to the SCAC All-Tournament Team following the game.
Each side traded runs throughout the game, but it was the Bulldogs on their home court that went on to win their fourth conference championship in the last five seasons. Texas Lutheran had a chance to win the championship with a last possession in regulation. Knotted at 78, Nathan Josephs put up a jumper falling away from the right side that rimmed out.
Playing their first overtime of the year, the Crusaders withstood an 84-80 deficit with two minutes by getting a trey from Nunn. After the Bulldogs split at the line, Dustin Mathis (Fort Worth, Texas) leveled the score at 85 with 44 seconds left. The Bulldogs missed the next shot and the Crusaders had the ball on the last possession this time. The ball was unable to drop for the lower-seeded Crusaders and action moved to double overtime as a packed house at Memorial Gymnasium held its breath wondering if a winner would be decided.
In the final five minutes, UD went up by one with Jai Love (St. Louis, Mo.) hitting the first-of-two at the line. Teams traded one-point leads over the next minute until a Dallas miss led to Sebastian Andrade making a layup with 2:43 remaining to make it 91-88.
The Crusaders got two free throws from Logan Fruhwirth (Waynesville, Ohio) to shrink the margin to a point again, and Love followed on the next Dallas possession with two more free throws to give a 92-91 advantage with 58 seconds. Josephs came through with a layup and drew a foul to have a three-point play opportunity that was converted on. The Crusaders did not get another basket until a triple with 11 seconds by Nunn cut the score to 97-95.
The Bulldogs, who shared the regular season conference championship, were able to knock down the key free throws, and the clock ran out on Dallas' championship run.
Entering the tournament tied for sixth and receiving the fifth seed with a tiebreaker, the Crusaders ended a five-game losing streak with huge performances that led to wins over 2018 SCAC Tournament Champion Schreiner University and top-seeded Southwestern University.
Dallas withstood an early 11-0 run in the first two minutes that included TLU's Shawn Hamilton making his first trio of three-pointers for nine of them. The Crusaders did not get rattled, battling from down 12 to eventually tie things at 22 with nine minutes before intermission. Down 22-16, Love hit a trey and was fouled. His four-point play was followed on the defensive end with a block by John Russell (Bossier City, La.) that led to a scramble and Dallas timeout. Rashid Coombs (Houston, Texas) made the tying basket.
TLU responded with three field goals from long distance - coming from Hamilton, Andrade, and Josephs to make it a nine-point game a little over a minute later.
The Crusaders gave a resilient effort again, this time taking their first lead of the game with 1:23 left on two Letrell Toussaint (Waco, Texas) free throws. Wambsganss was able to get a defensive rebound and was fouled sending him to the line for the bonus. He ended up with four free throw shots thanks to a technical, which he sank all for a 42-37 lead that remained through halftime.
The true road team kept the pressure up in the beginning of the second half, getting quick layups by Russell and Nunn. Fruhwirth had a layup and three that marked UD's first double-digit advantages of the contest. Josephs knocked the margin back to nine before Russell and consecutive three-pointers by Wambsganss sparked eight straight and provided the Crusaders largest lead of the game at 17 (61-44). At that juncture, Wambsganss had made nine field goals and all four attempts from three. His first miss was at 13:06 on a layup.
Prior to that shot off, Wambsganss had his 10th field goal that gave Dallas 63 points before the Bulldogs responded with eight in a row to get the score to five. With the Crusaders trying to hold off a comeback bid, the Bulldogs later knotted the board at 71 with Jackson Willoughby making a free throw. He was off on the second shot ,and Wambsganss came through with the rebound and buried a go-ahead trey assisted by Nunn with 3:25. Up 76-73, the Bulldogs knotted the score with a three by Josephs and took a two-point lead on two Hamilton free throws. Love got the Crusaders back tied on an inside basket with 27 seconds to set the stage for the overtime drama.
Shooting tremendously all weekend, the Crusaders kept the trend up hitting north of 50 percent in both regulation periods. Both sides combined for three made field goals in the overtimes, which lowered UD's overall percentage to a 45.1-clip. Dallas surpassed double-digits for made three-pointers for the seventh time this season going 11-for-21 (52.4 percent). The impressive free throw game continued was well with a 20-for-22 (90.9 percent) display. Wambsganss led with an 8-for-8, as six of the team's nine players had at least one make. After scoring a season-high 91 points Saturday, the Crusaders bested that mark with 95 on Sunday.
Wambsganss played the full 50-minute duration and secured his second career 30-point plus scoring performance and grabbed all 13 of his rebounds on the defensive side for his fifth double-double (2nd of the tournament). He finished 11-for-17 in field goals with five trifectas. Nunn went for 15 points, including three-of-four from downtown. His three assists matched Fruhwirth. Love came off the bench with 13 points. All nine players in the box score tallied points in the Crusaders' first SCAC Championship appearance.
Dallas also edged the Bulldogs 47-41 in rebounds with both sides grabbing 11 on the offensive glass.
Texas Lutheran limited its turnovers to five, while scoring 16 points from the 14 UD miscues. TLU also had a 38-32 advantage on points in the paint.
The Bulldogs shot 41.6 percent overall and 10-of-33 from three. Their free throw game was just as strong with an 89.3 percent (25-28) mark. Six Bulldogs scored double-digits with the entire starting five making it. Willoughby notched 21 and tied Andraded with seven rebounds. Josephs tossed in 18 points to go with eight of the team's 18 assists. Hamilton only had four treys after the torrid start but would net 17 points. Alex Cage and Jacob Kouremetis added 11 and 10, respectively.
The double overtime contest is the first for the Crusaders since 2016-17 at home in a 94-91 win against Arlington Baptist College.
Texas Lutheran improves to 18-9 and received an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
The Crusaders concluded the 2018-19 season at 11-17, but advanced to their first SCAC Men's Basketball Championship. Head Coach Jarred Samples ends the season with 121 career wins for the all-time winningest coaching record.