KANSAS CITY, Mo. – No. 18 University of Montana Western erased a 14-point first half lead against the No. 16-ranked Raven Men's Basketball team on Wednesday night to spark a run that the Ravens weren't able to overcome.
Benedictine (24-9) trailed 43-39 at the half to Montana Western (23-9) and battled back from their own double-digit deficit in the second half but in the end, could never break through aginast the Bulldogs, falling 80-77 in the opening round of the 2015 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Div. I Men's Basketball Championship.
"Instead of us attacking them at the rim, a couple of our guys decided that I'm going to be the guy to knock down the next three and get us back going again and that didn't work," said head coach Ryan Moody. "That allowed them to make their run and they took the lead going into the half. We just needed to get more touches at the rim from our post players or with the drive."
After trailing early and battling through three ties, the Ravens started getting their offense going after Brett Fisher knocked in a 3-pointer with 15:47 left in the first half.
From there, Benedictine went on a 15-4 run to pull ahead by 14 points, 27-13, near the midpoint of the first half.
After a Jallen Messersmith basket pushed Benedictine back ahead by 14 points less than a minute later, Montana Western went on their own offensive run to close out the first half.
The Bulldogs outscored the Ravens 28-10 over the rest of the first half to erase Benedictine's lead and push ahead five before taking a four-point lead into halftime.
A 3-pointer by Jake Schannuth three minutes into the second half gave Benedictine back the lead, 46-45, but it was short-lived as Montana Western answered with a 15-4 run to pull back in front by 10 points with 12:06 remaining.
Benedictine gradually chipped away to close within a possession and closed within one point after Connor Fleming converted an old-fashion 3-point play with 6:45 left.
That was all the closer the Ravens could get and Fleming pulled the Ravens within one point for a second time, 68-67, with 5:23 remaining and then Messersmith pulled the Ravens within one for the last time, 71-70, with 3:25 remaining.
Benedictine's bench outscored Montana Western 28-8 as Fleming scored a season-high 13 points.
John Harris Jr. led the Ravens with 17 points while Schannuth and Fisher each added nine points.
The Ravens finish the season with the fourth-most single-season wins in program history. The trip to the NAIA tournament for the second straight season also marks just the second time in program history.