Chrisman grad Jackson helps NW Missouri to Final Four

Micaela Dea
St. Joseph News-Press

EVANSVILLE, In. — With a 98-77 victory over No. 7-seeded West Liberty, No. 2-seeded Northwest keeps on dancing.

The Final Four bound Bearcats (26-2) beat the Hilltoppers (18-5) in the NCAA Division II Elite Eight quarterfinal Wednesday to advance to the semifinals for the third time in program history behind five double-figure scorers.

Northwest head coach Ben McCollum called the program's first game versus the Hilltoppers a battle of will.

"Although they pose a different threat to us with a press that we don't see ever, they don't see half court teams a ton in their league either. It's just such contrasting styles," McCollum said.

Northwest senior Ryan Hawkins led the way with 32 points on 11-of-14 shooting, including 6 of 8 from 3-point range.

William Chrisman High School graduate Isaiah Jackson helped on the boards, grabbing six rebounds while adding two points, two assists and a block.

Northwest advances to the national semifinals at 8:45 p.m. Thursday against No. 3 Flagler, which edged Truman State 70-69 in the late game Wednesday.

Up against West Liberty's press throughout, McCollum said his team thrived.

"I put it all on them. I put the defense on them and the offense on them. You can't really call anything because everything's so sped up, so you just have to trust that they're just going to play," McCollum said.

The Bearcats shot 62% from the field (34 of 55), and scored 50 of their points in the paint, a result of full-court pressure.

Northwest junior Trevor Hudgins had 23 points and five assists, and junior Diego Bernard added 14 points and missed only one shot from the field to go along with five rebounds and two assists.

Northwest sophomore Luke Waters tallied 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting next to five rebounds.

In his first career double-double, Northwest freshman Byron Alexander finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds, to go along with four assists.

West Liberty's largest lead of the game was 12-8, until the Bearcats stepped up and delivered.

Hawkins believed in his squad, even though they were facing the best offense in Division II as West Liberty led the nation in scoring averaging 102 points per game.

"It's win or go home at this point so you got to bring your best, and we weren't at our best to start but we got it corrected," Hawkins said.

Northwest answered with a 11-0 run to push to a 19-12 lead with 10:10 to play in the opening half.

Northwest continued to dominate as sophomore Wes Dreamer knocked down a three to give the Bearcats a 51-32 lead at the break.