By Matt Green
No. 1 Fresno Pacific (21-7) vs. No. 5 Hawks (19-11)
NCCAA National Semifinals
Thursday, March 14 • 3:30 pm ET • Winona Lake, Ind.
WINONA LAKE, Ind. -- Shorter head men's basketball coach Chad Warner and his team watched as Fresno Pacific guard John Taylor dropped 50 points in the Sunbirds' 113-101 win over Roberts Wesleyan in the NCCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship quarterfinals.
The Hawks already knew they would be in a dogfight in the semifinals. Watching a player go for 50 right before their eyes only confirmed that notion.
After having to deal with one of the NAIA's most prolific scorers in the quarterfinals, Shorter is now tasked with figuring out how to contain a record-setting scorer today when the fifth-seeded Hawks take to the floor against the top-seeded Fresno Pacific Sunbirds in the first of two NCCAA Men's Basketball Championship semifinals at 3:30 pm ET in Winona Lake, Ind.
"I just hope we defend," said Warner after witnessing Taylor, a 6-1 junior guard, torch Roberts Wesleyan for a school and Pacific West Conference record 50 on 16-for-23 shooting on Wednesday night.
Taylor, last year's National Division II Junior College Player of the Year after he averaged 25 points a game at Mott Community College in Michigan, is averaging 27 points a game this year for FPU, the NCCAA's West Region champion that is averaging 90 points per game. He scored 31 of his 50 in the first half in FPU's win over eighth-seeded Roberts Wesleyan and finished the game 14 of 18 from the foul line while making 4 of 8 from 3.
Shorter may have gotten a small preview as to what guarding Taylor could be like in its quarterfinal win over Mid-America Christian, who featured the Sooner Athletic Conference Player of the Year in Charlie Shorter. Shorter, who entered the NCCAA Men's Basketball Championship averaging 23 points, scored 31 on the Hawks in yesterday's win, but needed more shots than Taylor (25) to net 19 fewer points.
The key in the Hawks' success against Shorter was senior guard Kenny Leverette, who held Shorter to six points on 2-for-13 shooting in the first half as the Hawks built an 18-point halftime lead. That same early success against Taylor is almost a must if Shorter hopes to advance to its first-ever national championship game with a win.
But Shorter will have to handle more than just Taylor. The Sunbirds have four players averaging double figures, including versatile 6-4 forward Malcolm Griffin, who averages just under 18 points and went for 17 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in the win over Roberts Wesleyan.
Matt Samuels and Antonio Credit average 13 and 11 points, respectively, for FPU.
While FPU turned in the most explosive offensive effort in Wednesday's quarterfinals, the Hawks also demonstrated a knack for buckets in the opening round, setting the stage for what could be one of the most high-scoring games in NCCAA Men's Basketball Championship history.
Shorter dropped 101 points to beat Mid-America Christian, getting a career-high 33 points from Anthony Banks, 26 from Walter Hill and 16 from Leverette. The Hawks placed a total of five players in double figures, as Dedric Ware had 11 points Marquise King 10. The Hawks shot 53 percent, made 11 of 22 3-point attempts and exceeded 50 points in each half.
Today's game will be broadcast live on WATG-FM 95.7 The Ridge and via a live webcast that can be accessed by following the link on the Shorter Athletics homepage. Tourbeau Sports is also providing a live video feed for all tournament games. The live video site can be found here.