Chrisman grad Isaiah Jackson helps NW Missouri advance to D-II Elite Eight

Micaela Dea
St. Joseph News-Press

ABERDEEN, S.D. — With a come-from-behind performance turned overtime thriller against top-seeded Northern State, No. 2 seed Northwest Missouri State punched its ticket to the Elite Eight.

"You probably won't see a better college basketball game this year," Northwest head coach Ben McCollum said.

Overcoming an 11-point deficit with 3:01 left in the contest, the Bearcats secured their 91-86 overtime win over Northern State on Tuesday in the 2021 NCAA Division II Central Region Championship at Wachs Arena.

Scoring 27 of his 29 points in the second half and in overtime, Northwest junior Trevor Hudgins sank 4 of 6 three-pointers in the win.

McCollum added, "There is zero arrogance to him. He has a genuine extreme confidence,” McCollum said of Hudgins. “Very few have that confidence. He is so humble. He believes in himself and his teammates believe in him."

Named the Most Outstanding Player of the Central Region Tournament, Northwest true freshman Byron Alexander recorded a career-high 21 points, going 6 of 6 from the field and 9 of 11 from the free throw line.

Another true freshman, William Chrisman High School graduate Isaiah Jackson, sank two free throws with 9 seconds left to complete the scoring to seal the win. He finished with four points, one rebound, one assist and one steal.

Northwest head coach Ben McCollum said it was a great game played by both teams and an entertaining contest.

"We got a little lucky and came away with a big win. I can't say enough about the heart of our kids. We were not done and we kept battling. It was fun," McCollum said.

With the Wolves leading 18-6 barely seven minutes into the game, McCollum said the opposing team punched the Bearcats in the mouth throughout the entire contest.

The 12-point deficit is the largest the Bearcats have faced this season.

Trailing 36-35 at the break, the Bearcats took a four-point lead early in the second half at 44-40, only to see the Wolves come back and take a 52-48 advantage with 12:24 to play.

Northern State's Parker Fox continued to score as he posted seven of his game-high 34 points to push to an 11-point lead with 3:01 to play.

"I wasn't ready to be done," said Northwest senior Ryan Hawkins, who finished with 19 points and nine rebounds.

McCollum mentioned some doubt naturally began to creep in.

"When you are down that much, it was a pretty low chance at that point. But with our group and our heart they've proven there's a chance. They just believed. I don't know if I've seen many comebacks like that in any game," McCollum said.

Then, Hudgins lit up, scoring eight points in a 23-second span to cut into the Wolves' lead at 78-75 with 1:38 to play.

With :05 on the clock, Hudgins dribbled the ball down the floor and knocked down a step-back three-pointer to tie the contest at 79-79.

In overtime, Northern State only made 1-of-6 shots, until Northern State's Kobe Busch made a three to give the Wolves their final lead of the game 84-83 with 2:05 remaining.

The Wolves missed a game-tying 3-pointer as Jackson iced away the victory with his two free throws.

Northwest shot 50.8% from the field, including 61.5% in the second half. The Bearcats failed to make a 3-pointer in the first half — the first time since Nov. 3, 2018, also against Northern State.

On Wednesday morning, Northwest was named the No. 2 seed for the Elite Eight, set for March 24-27 in Evansville, Indiana. The Bearcats will meet No. 7 West Liberty of West Virginia at 6 p.m. March 24.

Truman State, which includes Lee’s Summit graduate Sam Lock, is the No. 6 seed and will meet No. 3 Flagler College of Florida at 8:45 p.m. March 24.

– Tribune News Service