LINCOLN, Neb. – Not even a blizzard can stop the No. 1 ranked Nebraska Wesleyan men’s basketball team as they won their second straight conference tournament championship with a 97-79 victory over No. 18 Loras College in the 2019 American Rivers Conference Tournament Championship game on Saturday night (Feb. 23) at Snyder Arena.
NWU clinches an automatic bid to the 2019 NCAA III National Tournament and will find out the pairings when the bracket is released on Monday at 11:30.
The Prairie Wolves never trailed in the matchup between the top two seeds in the conference tournament. NWU led 43-31 at halftime then shot a blistering 69.6 percent from the floor in the second half to keep the Duhawks from cutting into the lead.
Senior Ryan Garver proved that he is one of the top players in NCAA III basketball just missing his second triple double of the year. Garver scored a career-high 33 points on 12-16 shooting, pulled down 10 rebounds and added to his nation leading total with nine assists.
NWU jumped out to a 12-4 lead to start the game, but Loras quickly tied it back up at 12-12. The game would be tied again at 14-14, then Nate Schimonitz buried a 3-pointer for the Prairie Wolves and Loras could never get it tied again.
With just under eight minutes left in the first half, NWU went on a 10-0 run, six of which came by Garver, to go up by 13 points. The first half was capped with a thunderous dunk by Clay Reimers to send the Prairie Wolves into the locker room with a 12-point advantage.
NWU maintained the double digit advantage the majority of the second half, getting up by 20 points on a basket from Cooper Cook with 11:54 left in the game. That would be the biggest lead of the game until the final two minutes when NWU got ahead by 22 on a 3-pointer from Nate Bahe.
The Prairie Wolves ended the game shooting 61.8 percent as a team, the fourth time this year they were over 60 percent in a game. NWU was 11-23 from 3-point range and held a +3 advantage on the glass.
Loras, the top scoring team in the conference, was held 12 points under their season average. The Duhawks were 11-29 from 3-point range and were led by Ryan DiCanio with 20 points.
Garver was one of five Prairie Wolves that reached double figures in scoring on the night.
Nate Bahe came off the bench to score 15 points, making 3-4 from 3-point range. Clay Reimers had 14 points, six rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots. Jack Hller and Nate Schimonitz both finished with 13 points.
Nebraska Wesleyan will host a watch party for the selection show on Monday at 11:30 am in Great Hall of the Smith Curtis building. The entire NWU campus, alumni, fans and friends are encouraged to join in the celebration.