Nova Southeastern wins D-II title, finishes 36-0

EVANSVILLE, Ind.– Will Yoakum scored 31 points, Dallas Graziani included 24 points, nine assists and three steals and top-ranked Nova Southeastern beat West Liberty 111-101 on Saturday to win the very first NCAA Division II national championship in program history.

“They’re special,” Nova Southeastern coach Jim Crutchfield said, “due to the fact that they’re 36-0.”

The Sharks (36-0), who went 33-1 last season with their only loss being available in the Elite 8, became just the 6th unbeaten team to win the title, joining Northwest Missouri State (38-0 in 2018-19, the very first of three straight championships), Findlay (36-0 in 2008-09), Fort Hays State (34-0 in 1995-96), Cal State Bakersfield (33-0 in 1992-93) and Evansville (29-0 in 1964-65).

RJ Sunahara fouled out with about 5 minutes left and completed with 28 points on 12-of-17 shooting for Nova Southeastern, and Kobe Rodgers included 13 points and 7 rebounds.Bryce Butler led

West Liberty( 33-4 )with 32 points and 9 rebounds. Christian Montague struck 5 of 7 from 3-point variety and completed with 19 points, Steve Cannady and Zach Rasile scored 11 each and Chaz Hinds included 10 points.Sunahara made a layup to open the scoring about a minute into the

game, Graziani scored to make it 16-6 with 15:23 left in the first half and Nova Southeastern never ever trailed.The Sharks, who went into the game leading Division II in scoring( 102.5 per game)

, set the record for many points by a group in an NCAA men’s or women’s national championship at any division.Sunahara scored 20 first-half points on 9-of-11 shooting, Yoakum made 6 of 7 from the field to score 15 points

and Graziani scored 14 points with seven assists as the Sharks took a 55-48 lead into intermission. It was the highest-scoring half in Department II champion history.West Liberty was called for 3 flagrant fouls and 2 technical fouls. Ben Sarson was called for a flagrant foul 2 and ejected after he elbowed Yoakum– who played 4 seasons for the Hilltoppers before transferring to Nova Southeastern– on a box-out early in the 2nd half. Sarson, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, began each of the 35 games in which he appeared this season, averaging 10.5 points and 4.4 rebounds.The Hilltoppers’ Malik McKinney fouled out midway through the 2nd half and after that was evaluated a technical foul, and Montague was called for technical with 8:15 to play.

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