KANSAS CITY — Ryan Imhoff added another double-double to his impressive resume, leading the Carroll College men’s basketball team to a 61-53 win over Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) in the opening round of the NAIA men’s national basketball tournament. Imhoff scored 30 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and had four assists in the win for the Fighting Saints (28-5).
Carroll, which has advanced to the final eight of the national tournament in consecutive seasons, overcame a 13-0 second-half run from the Blue Raiders, who led 41-36 with 12:05 remaining in the contest. The Fighting Saints responded with a 17-5 run of their own to take the lead for good.
Imhoff scored 12 points during the second-half run, including two key jump shots from just inside the 3-point line, one a turnaround fadeaway to beat the shot clock. Imhoff finished 14-21 from the floor. Carroll made 23 of 51 field goals in the contest, good for 45 percent. The Saints made only two of 15 3-pointers, but hit 13 of 16 free throws to help seal the win.
Lindsey Wilson shot 37 percent, but were out-rebounded by the Saints 38-27. Carroll also held a 16-9 advantage in assists.
The Saints started strong in the opening minutes of the game, with Imhoff, Matt Wyman and Match Burnham leading the charge, putting Carroll ahead 15-9. Wyman’s two-handed dunk sparked a quick 8-3 run for the Saints. But Lindsey Wilson hit consecutive 3-pointers, one from Bryan Wallace, the other from Hanes Erhardt, to take a 17-15 advantage at the 9:26 mark in the first half.
But every time the Saints needed a basket, Imhoff rose to the occasion, much like he has all season long. Four straight points from the all-American pushed Carroll back in front, before the teams traded dunks moments later. Nic Brown slammed a two-handed dunk for the Blue Raiders, but Imhoff found Alex Santos with a nice bounce pass on a backdoor cut, leading to a two-handed flush for Carroll, which led 21-19. Lindsey Wilson added five straight points for a 26-23 lead, but Imhoff, Burnham and Ife Kalejaiye ended the half with seven straight points and a 32-28 advantage.
Imhoff had 12 points, six rebounds and four assists in the first 20 minutes, while Wyman added six points and four rebounds. Lorel Johnson also grabbed four rebounds for Carson Cunningham’s squad in the first half.
Imhoff opened the second half with the first four points, extending Carroll’s lead to 36-28, but the Blue Raiders scored the next 13 points, seven from Kel Stotts, to steal a 41-36 lead. Stotts hit two 3-pointers during the run, while Wallace took advantage of a Hannes Erhardt offensive rebound with two second-chance points.
But Imhoff scored the Saints’ next four points, before Burnham drove to the left block, pump-faked his defender, and knocked down an easy two, bringing Carroll to within 43-42 at the 10:17 mark in the second half. Wyman’s free throw 67 seconds later tied the game, before Imhoff pushed Carroll back in front with a one-handed shot in the lane.
Carroll pushed its lead to 49-45, but scored a key basket in the final six minutes that added momentum to the Frontier Conference champions. With one second remaining on the shot clock, the Saints inbounded underneath their own basket, lobbing to Wyman who hit a floater in the lane to give Carroll a 51-46 lead. Imhoff’s turnaround fadeaway came 50 seconds later, and though Lindsey Wilson got within 53-50 after Kalejaiye fouled out, Carroll pushed the game out of reach in the final minutes.
Imhoff blew past his defender for an easy layup with 1:57 to go, scoring his 30th point in the process, giving Carroll a 59-51 lead before Burnham added a pair of free throws in the final minute to cap the scoring.
Burnham finished with 12 points, despite a 2-11 shooting performance, and three rebounds. Wyman added nine points and eight rebounds in the win. Santos had a team0high five assists to go with six points and seven rebounds.
The Saints face Our Lady of the Lake (Texas) in the second round. Tip-off is slated for 9:15 p.m. Central time on Friday. Carroll earned a 78-71 victory over Our Lady of the Lake on Nov. 17 in Helena.