KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Carroll College scored the game’s first points, but that was the only time the Fighting Saints would hold the lead on Tuesday night, as top-seeded Georgetown (Ky.) defeated Carroll 68-48 in the NAIA Division I men’s basketball national championship inside Municipal Auditorium. It’s Georgetown’s third title in program history, with the other two coming in 1998 and 2013.
Georgetown answered Carroll’s opening basket with a 24-4 run to take control of the game and lead 26-9 by the under-8-minute media timeout. The Tigers led by 20, 35-15, at halftime, as the Saints shot just 6 of 32 and made 1 of 14 from downtown.
“We came out, missed some shots we usually hit, gave up some easy ones for them and they got on a roll. Their size, athleticism, just manhandled us in the first half,” said Carroll senior forward Matt Wyman.
“It was kind of a role reversal. We had been having good starts down here. I thought we came out, executed what we wanted to do early, we just didn’t get the buckets to go down,” said Carroll head coach Kurt Paulson. “They got the momentum and raced out and got an eight- or 10-point lead, a little too much for us to overcome. Our guys gave it everything they had and we represented the state and Carroll College to the best of our ability down here. So proud of the team and it just wasn’t our night.”
Carroll made a small run at Georgetown early in the second half to cut the deficit to 16, 45-29, but Georgetown answered every time Carroll could manage a bucket. The lead consistently hung around 20 throughout the second half as the Tigers cruised to victory. Troy Steward’s tomahawk jam with less than two minutes to play served as the perfect exclamation point to Georgetown’s championship performance.
Georgetown locked down on defense, holding the Saints to 19-of-62 shooting (30.7 percent) and making just 5 of 27 from 3-point range. The Tigers also out-rebounded Carroll 45-29.
“Their athleticism was tough for us. What we needed to do to win that game was really shoot the ball, and our percentages weren’t good at all,” said Paulson, who wrapped up his first year as the Fighting Saints head coach. “It’s just bittersweet. You want to take it that one last step, but the cards weren’t in our favor (Tuesday). You have to congratulate Georgetown, they have quite the team, and our seniors, we’re going to be sorely missing them next year, they had fantastic careers at Carroll. They should be so proud of what they accomplished.”
Chris Coffey had another double-double, his fourth consecutive, to lead Georgetown, scoring 10 points and pulling down 16 rebounds. Coffee was named the tournament’s MVP. He had 32 points and 12 rebounds in the semifinals against William Carey (Miss.) to push the Tigers into the title game.
Eljay Cowherd finished with 15 points, six rebounds and five assists. Cowherd averaged 17 points and nine assists in the tournament.
Match Burnham led Carroll with 17 points and seven rebounds but shot just 5 of 15 from the floor. Dane Warp added 11 and Matt Wyman finished with 10 for the Saints.
“It definitely hurts now after getting beat in the chipper, but we’ll always remember this day. We’ll tell our grandkids about the run we made, we’ll be able to look at our trophy behind the glass at Carroll when we come back and visit, and we’ll always have those relationships, most importantly,” said Wyman. “We love our coaches, we love our teammates and we loved everyone that supported us. We’re all bonded together so strongly that it means that much more to us, that run means that much more.”