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No. 10 Midland Midland University falls short in NAIA DII National Championship Game

No. 10 Midland Midland University falls short in NAIA DII National Championship Game

Mar 19th , 2014

Point Lookout, Mo. – No. 10 Midland University saw its season come to an end on Tuesday night in the National Championship Game as they fell to No. 5 Indiana Wesleyan University, 78-68. Despite falling one victory shy of its ultimate goal, the 2013-14 Warriors set a new school record for wins with 30 this year.

Ben Imig and Galen Gullie were both selected to the 2014 NAIA DII National Championship All-Tournament Team. In the game, Gullie also eclipsed the 1,000 point mark for his Midland career.

"Tonight just wasn't our night, and they were flat out better than us," said Head Coach Todd Eisner. "Credit Indiana Wesleyan though, they were aggressive and bothered us defensively. They had our offense out of synch the whole game. With that being said, I'm not at all disappointed with our effort. We battled over the last seven days and earned the right to play in this game."

It was clear from the start that the Warriors had a tough time finding their comfort zone offensively, but continued to pressure IWU defensively over the opening minutes. The Wildcats were able to distance themselves a bit with a 16-7 lead after RJ Mahurin connected from downtown on back-to-back possessions at the 13 minute mark. Trailing by eight with 11:12 on the clock, Marcus Franklin scored six straight points in the midst of a 9-2 Midland run where the Warriors closed to within one point of the lead at 19-18.

The Wildcats scored on their next possession and kept the pressure on Midland, not allowing the Warriors to ever jump out in front. Midland committed 11 fouls in the first half leading to 17 IWU free throw attempts. The Wildcats scored 14 points from the charity stripe and owned a 36-31 halftime lead. Despite shooting just 36 percent in the first half and their two leading scorers, Ben Imig and Galen Gullie, combining for just three points in the half, the Warriors trailed by only five.

The second half began with both teams trading buckets, with Midland remaining within a couple points of the lead. After gathering an offensive rebound off his own miss at the 15:58 mark, RJ Mahurin's second-change layup sparked a 14-2 Wildcats run that stretched their lead to 56-40. Imig was able to find his stroke at the 11:22 mark and scored six straight points in the midst of an eight-point Midland run, to cut the deficit to 56-48 midway through the second half. For every basket the Warriors made to chip away at the IWU lead however, the Wildcats answered.

Trailing by 10 points with 3:37 left in the game, Imig hit a pair of free throws as Midland attempted one final push. Gullie's floater in the lane on the next possession made it a 69-61 game with just over two minutes remaining on the clock. The Wildcats would deny the Warriors comeback bid though as they continued to pour in shots over the final minutes. IWU would seal the game from the free throw line to claim a 78-68 victory and the 2014 National Championship.

Imig finished with a team-high 17 points for Midland, followed by Marcus Franklin who chipped in 15. Jordan Weidner, who was named the Tournament MVP, scored a game-high 21 points for the Wildcats.

The National Championship is the first in school history for Indiana Wesleyan as they finished the season 31-6. The Warriors fall to 30-6 with the loss, having set a new school record for wins this year.

"The heart and commitment of this team is a testament to Coach Eisner and the values he teaches each day," said Midland President Ben Sasse. "Their hard work has taken this program to the next level and set a standard that will make this program great in years to come."

Following the game, Eisner was named the Rawlings-NAIA Division II Men's Basketball Coach of the Year.

"Coach Eisner is tireless in both of his crafts: preaching relentless defensive basketball and shaping the lives of young men. Our entire campus is delighted to see him get this deserved recognition," added Sasse.